Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 11, 2016

The Race To Raqqa Is On - To Keep Its Unity Syria Must Win

The race to Raqqa is on. Syria and its allies are competing with the U.S. and its allies to snatch east Syria from the Islamic State.

Raqqa in eastern Syria is held by the Islamic State as are the other cities along the Euphrates towards Iraq. To defeat the Islamic State in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and other eastern Syrian towns and to liberate them, is the aim of all purported enemies of the Islamic State. But this question has to be seen in the larger context.

Could the U.S. and its allies capture Raqqa or Deir Ezzor and with it parts of eastern Syria it could use them as a bargaining chip to gain some negotiation power with Syria and its allies over the future of Syria. Alternatively it creates a Sunni state in east-Syria and west-Iraq. Mosul would be part of such a Sunni state and it would be put under the tutelage of a neo-ottoman Turkey. There have been U.S. plans for such a "Sunnistan" and a revision of the Sykes-Picot borders for some time.

For Syria and its allies the upholding of the unity of Syria is a major objective. To leave Raqqa and the eastern oil fields to the U.S. and its allies would be a devastating loss. Syria and its allies must therefore beat the U.S. and its allies in the race to Raqqa and the larger east Syria.

Syria just made the first major move. A brigade of the Syrian Arab Army attacked the positions of the Islamic State along the Ithriyah to Raqqa road. The town Tal Abu Zayhn has been taken on the way to the first objective, the Tabaqah military airport. Additional supporting forces from various allied groups are assembling in Ithriyah to later support the attack.


map via Southfront - bigger

The U.S. move towards east-Syria is still in preparation. The first U.S. plan was to use the Syrian-Kurdish YPG forces of north-east Syria. These were labeled Syrian Democratic Forces after attaching a few men from Arab tribes. These forces would have attacked Raqqa from the north. But the Kurds did not want to invade the Arab lands they would not be able to hold. Their aim is to connect to the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria along the Turkish border.

The U.S. is coming up with a new plan. There are only sketches visible so far and the following is informed speculation.

The U.S. has extended the runway of the agricultural Rumeilan/Abu Hajar airfield (map) in the Kurdish held area in north east Syria to be able to supply larger operations in the wider area:

This location has been chosen because it's just 100 miles (160 kilometers) from ISIS frontline positions and some of its lucrative oil fields, but well within territory held by Kurdish fighters known as the YPG. The runway is being nearly doubled in length from about 2,300 feet to 4,330 feet (700 to 1,320 meters) -- long enough, say, to receive C130 transport planes. A small apron is also being paved.

Some U.S. special operation forces are said to already operate from there. This is the vanguard on a reconnaissance mission.

It was publicly disclosed that one brigade if the U.S. 101st Airborne Division would go to Iraq to train, advise and assist the Iraqi forces for an attack on Mosul.

Some 1,800 soldiers from the 101st’s Headquarters and its 2nd Brigade Combat Team will deploy soon on regular rotations to Baghdad and Irbil to train and advise Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces who are expected in the coming months to move toward Mosul, the Islamic State group’s de facto headquarters in Iraq.

But Col. Pat Lang was told that two brigades of the 101st would deploy:

I was told today that two brigades of the 101st Airborne Division are going to Iraq, not just one. This probably is related to the Saudi Juggernaut. pl

The Saudi "juggernaut" was the recent announcement that the Saudis would be willing to send troops to Syria. Nobody was, at first, taking that serious but it now starts to make some sense. The Saudis today confirmed their intent:

Saudi’s decision to send troops to Syria in an attempt to bolster and toughen efforts against militants is “final” and “irreversible,” the Saudi military spokesman announced on Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, said that Riyadh is “ready” and will fight with its U.S.-led coalition allies to defeat ISIS militants in Syria, however, he said Washington is more suitable to answer questions on further details about any future ground operations.
The statement comes as Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman visited NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss the Syrian civil war.

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

Such a move of forces would be quite large and over relative long distances. But most of the area is desert and modern motorized military equipment could easily cover those distances in a day or two. This would put Saudi troops into Syria. If they would take Raqqa or Deir Ezzor and the eastern Syrian oilfields they would NEVER let go of it unless Syria would bend to the Saudi demand of introducing an Islamist led government.

The plan is workable but it would also instigate a large mobilization of Shia forces and could lead to a bigger conflict. The Russian Prime Minister Medvedev warned today that new Arab forces entering the Syrian war could spark a much wider war.

The Saudi operation was said to start within two month. The Syrian government forces and their allies will now have to rush to the east to protect the unity of the country. The U.S. for its part may want to hinder the Syrian advantage by whatever means it has, including - possibly - some "erroneous" bombing.

The race for Raqqa, and Syria's future, is on.

Posted by b on February 11, 2016 at 19:10 UTC | Permalink

next page »

US should be supporting Assad/Russia/Iran et al and bombing the House of Saud in fight vs ISIS. Instead, more anti Assad rhetoric, support for "moderate rebels" blah, blah, blah..

Posted by: Steve | Feb 11 2016 19:22 utc | 1

steve 1 the sauds have too much influence in DC for that to happen

Posted by: heath | Feb 11 2016 19:46 utc | 2

Now you're thinking more like the evil empire US Empire, B.

Getting in with the Kurds was a plan to not provoke a regional enemy for which the US needs some level of support with the USs invasion of Syria plans. US doesn't need the Kurds, but it's easier not to make an enemy of them. ( The Kurds in that area is stuck with that shit decision to not piss off the evil US Empire. For they don't need the genocidal turks and the evil US Empire as both enemies against them. )
And if Putin thought like b above originally, then he wouldn't have made the disastrous invitation with the western state terrorists of fighting together the Western proxy terrorists in Syria. If western state terrorists were to invade Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIL, then Putin couldn't has no hypocritical right to complain with the ludicrous invitation he made. Putin could change his mind of course, admit his gross error and then condemn any invasion from anyone. That is the biggest question - how will Putin snd the Russians react to Western/ puppet criminal invaders of Syria.
I warned very early that this could lead to WW3.

No surprise that the more the Syrian government, Russian and allied success against Western proxy terrorists in Syria, have Western state terrorists and their puppets have been more willing to invade Syria then ever before. Among the countless evidence that ISIL and Al Qaeda was western/GCC/ Israeli proxies all along

Posted by: tom | Feb 11 2016 20:00 utc | 3

Re -- Is this what select CAQ alumni are doing these days? I had a look at the "About" section but couldn't figure out exactly who was behind it or how long the group has been active under that name. I did notice an allusion to Wolf/Agee and a cute Matrix reference, which makes their politics fairly obvious; but aside from that I admit to a burning curiosity. Sorry if my inquiry is hopelessly ignorant, but after Google let me down I decided to ask.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 11 2016 20:23 utc | 4

Off-topic -- the NYT and The Guardian have opened Comments on articles relating to the Syrian war and Russian involvement that have been closed for some time -- the Top Picks in the NYT comments have been blistering against US policy and actions; similar reactions in The Guardian.

Posted by: chet380 | Feb 11 2016 20:45 utc | 5

Andrew Korybko talked about this on his page. The Kurds best chance for a positive future lies within Syria, an Arab Syria can no longer exist. A Popular Democratic Syria is now the best hope to bring everyone together.

Posted by: Fernando Arauxo | Feb 11 2016 20:51 utc | 6

Race to Raqqa!

Anticipating this development was not that difficult when you know the motivations and determination of the main parties and a bit of history.

But I now think it may be more complicated than I initially foresaw. I was thinking that it was better to abandon northwest Syria because it could lead to WWIII and instead just go after ISIL territory. But Turkey may use the multi-nation 'Race for Raqqa' to seize the ISIL-held corridor in NW Syria. A sorta global pile-on.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 11 2016 20:57 utc | 7

thanks b.... what does iraq have to say about any of this?

what i don't understand is how the west/nato/sa/turkey think they can steal the land off syria.. i can see how they might be able to cajole the kurds into being pansies for this, however maybe they have been given assurances from israel/usa that they are going to get their kurdistan homeland out of it... i am sure that will go over well with turkey...

also - how are saudi troops, or americans for that matter, in a position of legality for being in syria? on what grounds can that fly? i don't get that either..

Posted by: james | Feb 11 2016 21:18 utc | 8

Apparently this is part of the regime change plan as well:

"Fighting ISIS is not just a military process; it is a political one too. By eradicating ISIS, the Russians and Iranians won’t have an excuse to destroy the national Syrian opposition that has nothing to do with extremist groups and foreign fighters. Weakening ISIS by eliminating most of its fighters, will improve the situation of the Syrian resistance, which has long been targeted by extremists and Assad forces and his allies."

The audacity of referring to Jaish al Fatah (the coalition dominated by Al Qaeda affiliated al Nusra and two other hardline Islamist groups) is breathtaking. (Even if Jaish al Fatah disintegrates under internal friction, as looks likely, the three hardline Islamist groups that provide the overwhelming majority of its fighters and resources will still exist and together with groups working with them will still dominate the rebel movement in all non-IS areas with the exception of the south.)

By focusing on IS under an international mandate, the rebels favored by Saudi Arabia (most certainly not the FSA) will be free of major opposition from IS and all other parties except the Assad government. The Saudis have a better chance at a puppet government of Wahhabist stripe whose non-apocalyptic views, laid back timetable, and limited geographic goals render it more tractable than IS.

The exact nature of the international "mandate" will be interesting to see. Only the UN Security Council can authorize military action, and a single veto by Council member Russia can prevent an explicit invasion authorization. Presumably previously passed Resolution 2254 ("... and to eradicate the safe haven they have established") will be cited. Bet the Russians are kicking themselves for having allowed that language to be inserted.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 11 2016 21:19 utc | 9

Edit: "The audacity of referring to Jaish al Fatah (the coalition dominated by Al Qaeda affiliated al Nusra and two other hardline Islamist groups) as "non-extremist" is breathtaking."

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 11 2016 21:23 utc | 10

Two months seems like an awfully long way away for the Saudis to start fighting. I'm sure the Iranians and Hezbollah are ready to send them all to hell in a shorter time frame.

Noted - the urgency of the situation and the need to unify all of Syria. But it seems from all public pronouncement and fundamental analysis that this is exactly what Iran is prepared to vouchsafe, along with Hezbollah, and what the Syrian army is ready to fight to the last man and woman for.

A few thousand US troops seems good enough for tripwire cover - but if they die would the US really escalate ground forces into Syria? With Russia and China raising hell at the UN over such an illegal act? That would be a test.

But I think tens of thousands of Saudis could die there without any major power lifting a finger. I also think that whatever ground is taken, even with US cover, cannot long be held. The US as always will betray any force it allies with today - and cut and run, albeit pompously.

I suspect long before the Saudi troops land, there will be demonstrations of force from the good guys detailing exactly what the combination is that unlocks those gates of hell waiting.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 11 2016 21:28 utc | 11

I've long wondered how the US can fly and land in Syria illegally without any formal protest at the UN or anywhere else. I conclude that Russian and Syrian interests - each different and each calculated at extremely fine granular levels - both see no purpose in bringing this element to the surface at this time.

Fundamentally I suspect the thinking is that the war on the ground can be won, and the Americans can finally slink away, all without confronting the illegalities of the west. Such a confrontation would be inconclusive today - although if the US bombs many more hospitals in Aleppo this calculus could change.

Similarly, I think even US and Saudi boots on the ground could conceivably go unchallenged, until the Syrians attain massive superiority - which must obviously happen, since the west in all its power is completely outgunned in Syria by the forces present. At this point, a a back-channel agreement could be made, similar to the one at Debaltsevo in Ukraine, to let the US troops retreat and to massacre the Saudis in whatever cauldron they've been stupid enough to get caught in.

And all of this could happen without any formal, surface protest about the US's illegal presence. Strange but I think true.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 11 2016 21:44 utc | 12

relevant comment from pl at ssr "IMO the policy of the US remains both belligerent and ignorant of actual conditions in the ME region. The notion that a pan-Sunni armed force can be created for the re-conquest of Iraq and IS controlled Syria is a fantasy. Why? Answer: There are no Sunni dominated countries who either have the forces needed or who are willing to deprive themselves of the homeland presence of what are in essence internal security forces. The idea that Saudi Arabia with its puny actual combat power could be the core of such a force is known to be ridiculous by all with a modicum of actual knowledge of the region. Any such force would inevitably be a screen for the employment of major US ground forces to do the real fighting. The US citizenry will not accept such a thing. The US government appears to be living in a world of its own dreams and group think."

Posted by: james | Feb 11 2016 21:45 utc | 13

Re 6 ("A Popular Democratic Syria is now the best hope to bring everyone together.")

Just who does that consist of and how will they implement it?

Even assuming that the Assad government is overthrown, that probably doesn't mean the end of civil war in Syria. The rebel movement contains many military "front" alliances between groups whose primary commonality is opposition to Assad. Once Assad is gone these purely pragmatic (not philosophical) alliances will disintegrate. At that point, whoever has the most fighters and the best funding and supply sources wins. That would seem to be an Islamist alliance heavily influenced if not dominated by Nusra.

The Syrian military will still exist post-Assad and could be a kingmaker (in an alliance with a FSA front willing to extend a general amnesty to ordinary Syrian military as well as promises of semi-autonomy to Alawite majority regions), provided that popular elections for a new government are organized immediately.

Otherwise, whoever takes Damascus will immediately assume power under a "temporary" martial law regime designed to safeguard against counter-revolutionary coup by remnants of Assad's military. Once the Interior Ministry and police have been purged and their leadership replaced, and a block-watch system of informants implemented, opposition (whatever its nature) will have little chance for urban organization. At that point, the Islamists declare an Islamic republic, and a war-weary civilian population goes along with misgivings that grow with time but ultimately have no outlet.The Islamists, being more pragmatic than IS, will take a gradualist approach that starts with assurances to the public and semi-liberal benignity, but ends up in the same place.

They may attempt to forestall FSA opposition by offering the chance for secular autonomy in the south; but once they consolidate power the mask will fall and so will the nominal autonomy.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 11 2016 22:03 utc | 14

Re 12 ("There are no Sunni dominated countries who either have the forces needed or who are willing to deprive themselves of the homeland presence of what are in essence internal security forces.")

What about the 600,000 strong Turkish ground forces, which Turkey has already pledged to contribute (some of) to the Saudi alliance? Even if the active reservists plus a core of active frontline troops are left at home, that easily allows the deployment of 300,000 troops.

Re 11 ("Two months seems like an awfully long way away for the Saudis to start fighting. I'm sure the Iranians and Hezbollah are ready to send them all to hell in a shorter time frame.")

Two months is not nearly long enough for the present contingent of Syrian military, Hezbollah, and Iranian forces to roll-up the fortified, dug-in positions of Islamic State in Raqqa and other strongholds in the north and east of the country, while continuing defensive positions and offensive operations against other rebel groups elsewhere. If you look at the list of territory that Syrian government and allied forces have regained, it's mostly small towns and villages, and some isolated military bases.

The current actions by government forces against rebel held portions of Aleppo alone, beginning with an attempt to cut rebel supply lines, will likely be followed by a years long siege to wait the rebels out. The Russians dare not attempt an incursion with tanks through narrow urban streets without facing stunning losses from anti-tank weapons fired from ambush by guerrillas, as happened in the first Chechen war. And the Russian ground forces in Syria are really quite small at this point. Their forte is strategic planning, the supervision of tactical operations, the repair of the Syrian Air Force, and their own contribution to air power and air defenses.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 11 2016 22:30 utc | 15

The article is excellent as it points out to a US-Sunnis possible strategy to compensate for the imminent loss of Aleppo and the eradication of the rebels and to open a door for increased pressure on the Syrian government.

This new initiative is the result of the crucial question: If the rebels and ISIS fighters are eliminated who will take over Al Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and the rich oil fields. There are now 2 candidates, the Syrian army with their Shia allies or to a lesser degree the Kurds.
None of these two are acceptable to the Sunni axis. Therefore Saudi Arabia is showing a sudden eagerness to send its own troops to prevent the Syrian army to take over the control of that "Sunni" land once ISIS is defeated.

For the US ( and Turkey), an area controlled by Sunnis with Saudi Arabia's support can become a bargaining card to request Bashar al Assad resignation, a long time demand.
This is why the USA is taking this strategy in consideration. Yet practically it sounds absurd. Unless Saudi Arabia hires mercenaries, it is difficult to see how its army already overstretched in Yemen can be of any efficiency in Syria.

Yet that eventuality has obliged the Syrian army to send troops toward Raqqa and Deir Ezzor thus decreasing the pressure in the Aleppo area.
Was Saudi Arabia bluffing about sending troops just to get that result and give a chance to the Aleppo rebels to move out unharmed?

Posted by: virgile | Feb 11 2016 22:44 utc | 16

February 11, 2016 You can't make this stuff up dept - lead story

Russia accuses US A10 Thunderbolts (AKA A10 Warthog) og bombing city of Aleppo Wednesday February 10, 2016 ...

"However, a senior State Department official denied the allegations, saying that Russian reports are “false,” and that the US did not carry out any missions over Aleppo on Wednesday or Thursday, NBC reports.

On Wednesday, the US accused the Russian Air Force of targeting two hospitals in Aleppo.

"The situation in and around Aleppo has become, in our view, increasingly dire," Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, said Wednesday. "With the destruction of the two main hospitals in Aleppo by Russian and regime attacks, over 50,000 Syrians are now without any access to live-saving assistance."

source -

Posted by: Alberto | Feb 11 2016 22:46 utc | 17

Earlier today Veterans Today posted a story re the alleged A10 Aoleppo attack. The story has been disappeared down a 'memory hole."

Posted by: Alberto | Feb 11 2016 22:49 utc | 18

Certain things here are a mystery. ISIS has good fighters and good command, when attacked they counter attack and so on. In the same time, Saudis seem to lack good fighters and good command.

Syrians may wish to race for Raqqa, but they were racing for Palmyra and Qurantain. In the same time, Saudi race for Saana is not a blitzkrieg either. I guess tortoises of Galapagos are faster. And where would Saudis start from? Not from Baghdad, that for sure. I am also dubious about KRG, and even more YPG being hosts. From Jordan? From Jarabulus-Azaz corridor?

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 11 2016 22:53 utc | 19

Lovely... I attack you, and when you want to retaliate, I fly back to my country and let you take any revenge you want on the locals and local gov.

Posted by: Mina | Feb 11 2016 22:54 utc | 20

b - "...But Col. Pat Lang was told that two brigades of the 101st would deploy:

I was told today that two brigades of the 101st Airborne Division are going to Iraq, not just one. This probably is related to the Saudi Juggernaut. pl

The Fort Campbell (101st Airborne's home) Post described the deployment thusly:

About 500 soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company — which includes Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) — and 1,300 soldiers in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team are slated to deploy, with Headquarters leaving in mid- to late February and the 2nd BCT deploying in spring.

The 2nd BCT will help train Iraqi and Kudish Peshmerga forces for combat against the Islamic State.

The 101st deployment as they described are two different deployments for two units of the 101st: 1) The Division Headquarters and Headquarters Company(HHC) and 2) the Second Brigade Combat Team (BCT). It would be interesting to know if Col. Lang heard about another actual BCT (or portion of it) being sent in the spring and where they would go. I can't scrounge anything on the intertubes up besides the Div HHC and 2nd BCT deployments.

I think a full 101st BCT is about 4,500 soldiers, so they're only deploying about a fourth of the 2nd BCT personnel to the Mosul effort 'in the spring'.

I can't locate the specific article now, but I did see a mention of the Div. HHC going to Baghdad at the end of February, not Mosul. The Ft. Campbell article says noting in particular about the Div HHC, but does specify the 2nd BCT is doing No idea what the normal size of their HHC would be so no idea what portion the 500 troops represent.

Curious thing about the Div HHC deployment is that the 101st Division Commander is going with them and a temporary one was appointed to remain at Ft. Campbell. No idea how the Army works so I don't know of that's typical or unusual. To my Army-ignorant reckoning, I would think the boss would stay with the bulk of the division instead of deploying with what (so far) amounts to a fraction of it's personnel. Do you or anyone else out there know what the Div HHC would do in Iraq, like intel or some kind of training for Iraqi Army officers? I just assume they'll be doing more than commanding the 1,300 BCT soldiers.

Also interesting to note the timelines. The 2nd BCT doesn't even get there until March-April. If it took a month to train Iraqi and Peshmerga forces, then you're potentially talking out to May or June before the attack on Mosul begins. That seems like a long time. ISIS is on a paranoia head-chopping frenzy in Mosul and things will only get worse as their money and supplies from the outside are cut off. I don't thing they let anyone leave now, so everyone there is a virtual prisoner. I understand why they're probably taking their time - Mosul is going to be tough and complex. They're going to find a mountain of headless corpses if they don't get there pretty soon, though.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Feb 11 2016 22:57 utc | 21

Destroy the incipient airbase and shoot down the transports while citing the requirement to preserve Syria's territorial integrity as UNSC resolutions state. Let the Syrians do the job as they should. Or helolift troops to establish a firebase from which to gain operational control of the region before the arrival of the enemy coalition. Go even further east of Raqqa to deny the approaches from that direction. The Outlaw US Empire's plans must be spiked!!

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 11 2016 23:05 utc | 22

@18 Alberto

US bombs Aleppo, blames Russian airstrikes for destruction of Hospitals

@16 virgile

The bluff angle seems quite likely ...

@11,12 grieved

... the two months' lead time tends to confirm the bluff. The double cross to get across seems right up the US' alley.

The assessment of the Saudi's military prowess by b and ssr sounds correct to me. It would have to be a Saudi figleaf over a tumescent US military erection to carry it off ... unless, as Paveway alluded, the Saudis and ISIS/Da'esh have been on the phone and the Saudi 'invasion' follows the Da'esh evacuation. The two months would ensure nothing was left behind. Then the US Airborne would only be required as human shields, among the 'occupying' Saudis, to forestall counterattacks.

The Iraqis need to help win the race. Time for them to get the US off their backs ... been 25 years too f*in' long already. If the US/Saudis occupy western Syria ... USA/Turkey in Iraq is next. If Syria, Iraq, and Iran and their Kurdish populations can read what's in the tea leaves, what USA/KSA/Turkey have in mind, surely they can unite and take real control of their region now and, together, forever.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 11 2016 23:27 utc | 23

Alberto @ 17,
Angry Russian Officer @ 4:

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 11 2016 23:41 utc | 24

OOPSE! The A10 US bombing Aleppo Wednesday story is still posted on VT. It is an RT piece so ...

Posted by: Alberto | Feb 11 2016 23:43 utc | 25

Just speculating - Blowing the Tishrin dam?

Would that take out both Al Tabqah AND a big chunk of Raqqa, or not?

Posted by: not you | Feb 11 2016 23:51 utc | 26

OOPSE! The A10 US bombing Aleppo Wednesday story is still posted on VT. It is an RT piece so ...

Can't figure this one out - would one file that under "escalation" or "winding down"?

'shard for my dumb little brain to keep track o'all this shit

Posted by: not you | Feb 11 2016 23:54 utc | 27

@19 Yes most likely Jordan. Combining that with another prong from the Turkish border would put the SAA in quite a pickle..

@22 Indeed. Quamishli, Der ez Zor and Hasakah need to be reinforced but are there available troops?

Posted by: Lozion | Feb 11 2016 23:59 utc | 28

Haha Criminal George Soros wrote in The Guardian today that the refugees crisis was caused by Putin. What a scumbag.

Posted by: Nick | Feb 12 2016 0:01 utc | 29

OK we can all relax. A ceasefire has been agreed...

World powers meeting on Syria have agreed to implement a nationwide "cessation of hostilities", US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.
But he said the ceasefire would not apply to the fight with jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) or al-Nusra Front.

Posted by: dh | Feb 12 2016 0:18 utc | 30

Re: Posted by: tom | Feb 11, 2016 3:00:05 PM | 3

I agree Tom. Russia must respond forcefully and immediately to any foreign invasion of Syria, by Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

And that means tactical nuclear weapons on any invading countries invaders.


The warnings have already been given.

Failure to do will lead to disaster.

Posted by: Julian | Feb 12 2016 0:22 utc | 31

The IRGC seems mostly active around Aleppo and amount to 6000 according to what I've read. The SAA needs the SDF on its side soon to take care of the NE pre-empting shenanigans by you know who..

Posted by: Lozion | Feb 12 2016 0:24 utc | 32

UPDATE2 - BREAKING NEWS ǁ Syria crisis plan: Cessation of hostilities, humanitarian airdrops, peace talks laid out in Munich

As NATO held war talks today in Brussels, US Secretary Kerry met his Russian counterpart Lavrov in Munich to seek a diplomatic solurion to war in Syria. Mars and Venus on planet Earth ... speaking of gravitational waves and time warp according to Einstein, diplomacy is sometimes just as incomprehensible.

Syria crisis plan: Cessation of hostilities, humanitarian airdrops, peace talks laid out in Munich

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura are holding a news conference in Munich. The officials are taking part in the meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) ahead of the Munich Security Conference.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 12 2016 0:48 utc | 33

Re 35, Lavrov was present and is quoted:

Mr Kerry admitted the ceasefire plan was "ambitious" and said the real test would be whether the parties on the ground honoured the commitments.

He made the announcement alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

Mr Lavrov said there were "reasons to hope we have done a great job today".


What usually happens in such cases is that somebody doesn't honor the ceasefire, followed by conflicting claims and recriminations as to who broke it, and the complete breakdown of the nominal ceasefire. Considering that the parties negotiating the ceasefire didn't include representatives of the rebel combatants and that the rebels lack a centralized command chain, I'd say that the chances of somebody slipping up somewhere, whether deliberately or in ignorance, are pretty good.

Surely the Russians and Americans both know this and have ulterior motives. The Russians want to demonstrate their "good faith" peaceable intent, while the Americans want to be able to say that the situation is intractable, thus justifying the planned escalation. This is cynical as hell and for both sides it will be business as usual sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 12 2016 1:03 utc | 34

I imagine the Russians had already considered the U.S. may try this and have some contingency plan. Unlike the U.S. and their allies, the Russians don't telegraph their intentions to everyone months in advance. If the Russians are setting up a second airfield in the north east you can bet it will have S400s and all their electronic warfare equipment as a matter of course. The Russians can then block all radar and electronic communications at the U.S. base. Without electronics the U.S. won't be flying anything into there. The Russians could demand registration of all flights in and out, forcing " our partners " into compliance with international law.

as for the Saudis military capabilities one only needs to look at their appalling performance in Yemen.

Posted by: Paulymx | Feb 12 2016 1:06 utc | 35

101st Air-Assault Division. The go in via helicopter rather than plane like true airborne troopers
Also, when the 101st deploys in a situation like this it's usually a brigade-combat-team which includes Apache gun ships and increased firepower to beef up a regular brigade.

Posted by: Camelotkidd | Feb 12 2016 1:18 utc | 36


Maybe all the threats about the Toads invading from the south and Turds from the north, was just pressure to get the Russkies to agree to Cohens headchopper-resupply plan?

And The Warthog attack on Aleppo, if it actually happened, was a little bit of underlining? To entice the Russkies to the table to agree to something, anything, so Cohen &Co can claim some sort of "success" they can sell to the sheep?

At most Cohen 'n Lavrov seem to have agreed not to target each other directly, and only attack proxies. Curious definition of a ceasefire, but better than a kick in the teeth with one of Crypto-Bernies socialist fighter jets(ffs) i guess.

The cost to the Russkies? Having to agree to allow Cohen &Co to resupply their proxies. Small price to pay I guess, to avoid a direct confrontation

Btw if this aleppo warthog story is true, it kinda makes a mockery of all this "invincible S400 air defence shield" shit we heard so much about, from the usual twats, in the last few months.

Whats up with that?

Posted by: Gen Martin Dempsey | Feb 12 2016 1:27 utc | 37

What a hot mess..
Perhaps the Obama admin wants to exit this cluster flock?

Muslim Brotherhood / ISIL is wanted elsewhere now?

Posted by: aaaaaa | Feb 12 2016 1:56 utc | 38

The Saudi army is not reliable in its fight against ISIS as it shares its extremist ideology. In Yemen the Saudi army is NOT fighting ISIS but they are fighting the Houthis who are the enemies of ISIS
The US coalition will be foolish to agree to Saudi ground forces as the weapons carried by the Saudi soldiers will certainly find their way to ISIS.

The real intentions of the Saudi are fooling no one.

'This is set to get worse': Saudi Arabia says it has made a 'final' decision to send troops into Syria

Posted by: virgile | Feb 12 2016 2:07 utc | 39

Kerry spoke until he was hoarse.

Lavrov hasn't said naaaay yet.

Hehe... I'm here all week. Try the fish. Fresh from Nuland found, er ... Newfoundland.

Hey, fuck the "EUuuuuw"! The joke wasn't THAT bad.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 12 2016 2:28 utc | 40

It's hard to believe that Putin is giving up on the goal of destroying all the terrorists in Syria so easily. He and the Axis forces haven't reached the Turkish border nor taken Aleppo and will have to settle for some villages and hills for all their efforts. This is not the glorious victory many people were predicting a few days ago and it might even be a death warrant for Assad and his cronies.

Moving on to al-Raqqa so soon with the rebel war stalemated seems like a pipe dream.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 12 2016 2:50 utc | 41

Brilliant speculative analysis b!! And it fits _perfectly_ into the ceasefire. Russian and Syrian forces can reduce pressure in east/Aleppo while moving forces at lightning speed to the east.

Looks like another 'too little, too late' move by the CIA/US. This failure is going to make the neocons even MORE steaming mad. I worry about what havoc they will wreak in 2017.

Posted by: fairleft | Feb 12 2016 3:03 utc | 42

Posted by: Julian | Feb 12 2016 3:03 utc | 43

Deputy FM Ibrahim Rahmanpour said Feb. 10.
Saudi deployment to Syria not likely

“Saudi deployment to Syria is purely propaganda and show. They have no such military force. They can only send paid foreign soldiers as they have long been doing. It seems these terrorist forces in Syria have been weakened and are seeking to escape to Libya. This statement of Saudi Arabia is just to create an expectation among these fighters and not to leave Syria,” he said.

Posted by: virgile | Feb 12 2016 3:03 utc | 44

Oops, "reduce pressure in WEST/Aleppo ..."

Posted by: fairleft | Feb 12 2016 3:04 utc | 45

@52 WoW

Details are beginning to emerge. "Race to Ragga is still On" Cease of hostilities will not apply to terror groups.


At first glance it looks like the preliminary agreement is a major diplomatic success for Russia and a defeat for Turkey and Gulf Arab states whose pet terrorist groups will not be allowed a respite, which after was the reason why they so desperately want a ceasefire. It is also a very good sign that Russia’s delegation did not succumb to the pressure by Turkey and even the EU which is unable to stand up to Erdogan’s “weaponization” of the refugees and accept a blanket ceasefire agreement that would have covered terrorist groups, which only would have prolonged the war in Syria by allowing the terrorists to regroup in preparation for the next round of fighting.


The main objective that everyone agrees on is to destroy Islamic State, Lavrov added. He also called the notion that the situation in Syria would improve if Assad’s regime was to abdicate an “illusion.”

Posted by: likklemore | Feb 12 2016 3:25 utc | 46


This is a not so clever attempt to spin this shut-down of the attacks by Russia and the Axis forces as having anything to do with the IS or al-Nusra who were never included in any peace plan or negotiations, ever. This propaganda does keep the rubes chattering the nonsense about the Gulf State's Monarchies supporting the IS or al-Nusra, their sworn mortal enemies.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 12 2016 3:41 utc | 47

WoW @58: IS and Al Qaeda (Al-Nusra) have fought for years for the interests of the Saudi Arabia state and the Gulf dictatorships. Consistently. Whatever their public statements. If they are the 'mortal enemies' of Saudi Arabia then why don't they ever focus any of their considerable military/terror power on the Sunni establishment in Saudi Arabia? (No, blowing up Shi'a mosques in Saudi Arabia doesn't count!) If they are the 'mortal enemies' of Saudi Arabia, then why does Saudi Arabia allow vast wealth to be transferred to IS and Al Nusra by private Saudi citizens? And that doesn't even count the vast wealth very likely being transferred by the Saudi Arabian state to these a@@holes.

Posted by: fairleft | Feb 12 2016 4:10 utc | 48

UPDATE3 - BREAKING NEWS ǁ Statement of the International Syria Support Group

Meeting in Munich on February 11 & 12, 2016, as the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), the Arab League, China, Egypt, the EU, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States decided that humanitarian access will commence this week to besieged areas, and an ISSG task force will within one week elaborate modalities for a nationwide cessation of hostilities.

The ISSG members unanimously committed to immediately facilitate the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously December 18, 2015. The ISSG reaffirmed their readiness to carry out all commitments set forth in the resolution, including to: ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva Communiqué in its entirety; press for the end of any indiscriminate use of weapons; support and accelerate the agreement and implementation of a nationwide ceasefire; facilitate immediate humanitarian access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas and the release of any arbitrarily detained persons; and fight terrorism.

Ensuring Humanitarian Access

In order to accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, sustained delivery of assistance shall begin this week by air to Deir Ez Zour and simultaneously to Fouah, Kafrayah, the besieged areas of Rural Damascus, Madaya, Mouadhimiyeh, and Kafr Batna by land, and continue as long as humanitarian needs persist. Humanitarian access to these most urgent areas will be a first step toward full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country.

[Read on ...]

Posted by: Oui | Feb 12 2016 4:16 utc | 49

Re 21:

"I think a full 101st BCT is about 4,500 soldiers, so they're only deploying about a fourth of the 2nd BCT personnel to the Mosul effort 'in the spring'."

Yes, but a full Brigade Combat Team is organized around three infantry battalions, a field artillery battalion, a field engineer battalion, a brigade support battalion (which includes headquarters and headquarters company), and a reconnaissance and surveillance squadron.

The 1st and 2nd battalions of the 502nd Infantry Regiment are attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, with unit sizes of 442 and 495 respectively according to Assuming these are augmented by the recon squadron (average size about 300 I believe) that would come close to accounting for the 1,300. The 3rd Battalion has a unit size of 417, so all three infantry battalions (sans discrete recon squadron) would also account for about 1,300.

Given the "advisory" (ahem) role of the light infantry, there would be no need for the field artillery and engineering battalions. The 500 accompanying the headquarters and headquarters company mentioned separately are the field support battalion.

To answer your other question, it is rare for a major-general and divisional commander to be deployed to theater to command a BCT; usually a colonel would do that. Perhaps the army anticipates a further force expansion in future and is putting the command structure in place now so that when the additional forces are deployed the administrative command structure is already in place and fully organized, with the appropriate liaisons established.

That said, according to his official bio, Major General Volesky was Commander 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, that included deployment in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM 09-10, among other assignments.

Caveat: this is based on my own amateur research and personal inference, not any particular knowledge based on military experience.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 12 2016 4:21 utc | 51

Where has Lone Wolf been? I miss reading his comments...Sun Tzu's too.

Posted by: upsetter | Feb 12 2016 4:24 utc | 52

It's hard to suppress a chuckle when reading that AmeriKKKa is gonna use its (legendary/ illusory) 101st Airborne as the co-ordinator of an illegal incursion of the disorganised herd of Pussies known as the Saudi Military into Syria.
In 2 months time? Gimme a break!

The whole 'scheme' sounds like a script written by Jon Stewart, or Monty Python.
1. "101" has been code for lots of options, but no clear optimum, for at least 50 years aka '101 ways to skin a cat'
2. It's 24 carat Yinon perpetrated by the US (soon, but not right now).
3. If Saudi Barbaria sends troops into Syria, International Law says that Syria/Russia can not only slaughter the trespassers, it can also attack military and war-fighting assets inside Saudi Barbaria.
4. Same as 3 for Turkey.
5. Good military plans work best when no-one blabs beforehand. How much chatter/bluster did Russia indulge in before its 30th Sept arrival in Syria; and how did it work out?

I think it's a PR stunt and the Yankees have run out of ideas (as usual).
The Syrians should consolidate Aleppo before moving on to Raqqa. ISIS-held Raqqa will still be there in a month or two and (if US is serious) will have even more juicy targets for Russia to exterminate than it does now. There was unlikely to be a quick solution to Syria's vermin problem and a thorough solution will always be better than a quick one. And that's why Russia is in Syria.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 12 2016 4:48 utc | 53

@63 So do I. Maybe they've found a new cool hangout..

Posted by: Lozion | Feb 12 2016 4:50 utc | 54

Today's ceasefire talk by Kerry & Lavrov, considering the back and forth at NATO and Saudi/Turkish intervention rethoric does imo add some weight to Penelope's view of different factions within the USG (though I would rather use the term agenda then faction). It seems again, in extremis, a way out to prevent escalation may be worked out, but the proof is in the pudding. Let's watch and see.

Posted by: Lozion | Feb 12 2016 4:57 utc | 55

Excuse the lame attempt at humor @51. But isn't this 'ceasefire' a joke? 4+1 Coalition forestalls intervention for at least 3 weeks. But the Assad must go! Coalition gets to airdrop "Humanitarian aid" (secretly including military supplies?). Isn't that a recipe for intensifying the conflict?.

March 1st is Super Tuesday. 12 Primaries and 1 Caucus will be held.

Wag the dog? Simmering Syrian tensions allow Hillary to tout her foreign relations chops. Its a dangerous world! Vote for the tough women with foreign relations experience - she'll keep you safe!

Vote early, vote often.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 12 2016 5:02 utc | 56

hw@64-thanks for deflating this build up of nonsense...if indeed that is what this is. The Iranians for one don't seem overly concerned:

“It’s a joke,” said an Iranian military source who asked not to be identified in a phone interview with Al-Monitor. “We couldn't wish [for] more than that. If they can do it, then let them do it — but talking militarily, this is not easy for a country already facing defeat in another war, in Yemen, where after almost one year they have failed in achieving any real victory.”

The source explained that after “major gains in Aleppo, northern Syria and Daraa in southern Syria, it’s clear that the Syrian government is strongly in control and all the terrorist groups are on the retreat. The Americans are aware that this is the end to their dreams in Syria — the Saudis too — so they are thinking [out] loud, but this is very dangerous for them.

“The Saudis might really take part in this war,” suggested the Iranian military source. “Such a decision might come from the rulers of the kingdom without taking into consideration the capabilities of their troops, and here is where the tragedy would occur. They are not well-trained for such terrain. I’m not sure if they sorted out the supply routes they would use — this is assuming that they would only fight [IS] — but it’s obvious they [want to] implement their agenda, after their proxies failed.

Posted by: Nana2007 | Feb 12 2016 5:25 utc | 57

Oh, now I see that the ceasefire is supposed to take effect in 1 week? Earlier reports said March 1st.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 12 2016 5:30 utc | 58

OK, I see. March 1st was Russian proposal.

Deal seems pretty flimsy as described by NYTimes:

Diplomats trying to secure a ceasefire for the civil war in Syria fell short early Friday in organizing a truce but agreed to try to work out details and implement a temporary "cessation of hostilities" ... It was not clear from their comments afterward if deep differences regarding the truce and which groups would be eligible for it could be overcome.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 12 2016 5:38 utc | 59

The ceasefire and way forward is basically the terms of UN 2254. Military action against designated terrorists can proceed. Saudi and Turkish activity has probably been curtailed by this agreement. On its face, it looks like a face-saving measure for the Americans.

Posted by: jayc | Feb 12 2016 5:40 utc | 60

That's probably the first local reaction to the Saudi decision

Posted by: Mina | Feb 12 2016 5:42 utc | 61

Based on b's new info, Paveway's recent, lengthy comments are starting to sound prophetic. This thread:

Posted by: dumbass | Feb 12 2016 6:03 utc | 62

dumbass @74 No they don't.

Posted by: fairleft | Feb 12 2016 6:18 utc | 63

I would not call it Russian betrayal of Assad yet, only because in fact the "agreement" is meaningless on the ground, and allows SAA to move against ISIL and seal Turkish border North of Aleppo, but in Idlib it is not a case. Also because it is implemented upon specific local field commanders reaching cease fire along segment of the front.

But it dangerously set up Russians for propaganda ambush and inevitable smuggling of western weaponry hidden inside humanitarian convoys and clandestine evacuation, or reinforcement of ANF and ISIL.

I, as much as any sane person, want this war to end ASAP but at this moment, a break would only prolong the war. And don't you think that US and allies gave up of invasion by US and Turkey. They play for time, while Russians want to deescalate tensions they fueled by preparing for war with Turkey.

It starts to remind me "real politik" of Russian in Donbass, that left them, hanging in political and economic limbo for 18 months now for nothing, since western sanctions were not lifted. So why this bending backward for teh west?

Excerpt from:

I am not saying that Russian state political system with its intricacies is isolated in the international forum. In fact for over 200 years Russian elites have been integrated to the pan-European aristocratic elites, interbred and developed historical cultural, political and economic connections with the West. Even soviet leadership belonged to global ruling elite, although somewhat estranged form calcified Anglo-Europeans snobs due to their middle class or peasant roots, and played important role in global historical process of shaping world’s elites.

Only in such a context one must see Putin struggles as a member of world power elite, a country club of world oligarchic class which internal saloon-like squabbles or brawls often end up with global wars and millions dead.

It is a proven fact that there is no tranquility in the global country club lounge and halls and some members clearly want more power prestige and influence challenging imperial leadership dominated by US. However, there is no irreconcilable hatred or unresolvable conflict among them so far.

It is too early for conclusion but I'm staring to worry.

Posted by: Kalen | Feb 12 2016 6:23 utc | 64

@all - deleted all comments by one "Gen. Martin Dempsey"

Do not feed that troll should it come back.

Posted by: b | Feb 12 2016 6:34 utc | 65

One problem for the SAA in their move NE from Ithiriya is being vulnerable to flanking attacks by IS. They need to control more than just the highway.

Posted by: ab initio | Feb 12 2016 6:36 utc | 66

Has anyone seen the details of Russia's ceasefire proposal? I went looking for it yesterday, and according to an RT article, Lavrov said that Russia is waiting for a response to the proposal and the precise details will remain confidential during the pondering phase. "News" reports elsewhere insinuate that the Yankees aren't thrilled by the details, but no-one has divulged them.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 12 2016 6:37 utc | 67

@dumbass - WARNING! Sockpuppetry will get you banned.

Posted by: b | Feb 12 2016 6:45 utc | 68

@jayc #71 - I think your four short sentences are the perfect statement of what's happened here. This is a success.

Russia always deploys military and diplomatic action simultaneously, as coordinated tools. It never stopped wanting to get around the table, and this is a continuation of the process. This is Russia's initiative, as far as I can tell at a glance.

Russia doesn't seek to win wars, Russia seeks to build peace. Every time adversaries sit around a table another layer of formality and legality settles over them, action slows down, and over time things change. Jaw Jaw, not War War - I think it was Churchill, and warmonger or not he got that one right. Ceasefire agreements and the Geneva road map bring international law one degree closer to the theater.

This agreement will allow humanitarian aid, and this time I believe this won't simply be a smokescreen for weapons transfers, but a real thing. Certainly Russia will continue to strive for this, and Russia, Iran and Syria are seeing everything that moves in Syria right now.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 12 2016 6:45 utc | 69

Numbers changed. I'm agreeing with jayc at #59. Perfect summation.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 12 2016 6:47 utc | 70

Re 50 (re 21):

My comments re the size of 1st and 2nd battalions in the 502nd based on info were mistaken and erroneous: the "unit size" at the website refers not only to active members (and not all of those) but also others; the"units" are online clubs associated with the military structures in question.

But the logic of deploying infantry battalions on "advisory" missions without the usual Brigade Combat Team engineer and field artillery battalions and with reduced support battalion strength, is probably valid. So that would explain the discrepancy between full BCT size and the deployment reported.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 12 2016 7:04 utc | 71

If the Russians with a smaller Air Force than the US in the Middle East, and the Syrian government with its allies who have less troops on the ground in Syria compared to the US and/or its Allies in the Middle East - then how the fuck has Russia and the Syrian military broken the back of ISIL in Syria for the last five months compared to what the US been (not) been doing for the last four years ?

Obvious answer of course, and we never really needed the Russian military Air force to actually demonstrate for us how clearly the US always wanted and supported the success of ISIL and Al Qaeda head chopping terrorists.

Posted by: tom | Feb 12 2016 8:38 utc | 72

The objective may be the Tabaqah military airport, but the real prize is reaching Lake Assad. The Kurds have already taken Tishrin Dam to the north of the lake. Now the only connection from Raqqa to the Turkish border and the Azaz / Jarabulus corridor goes along the number 4 motorway on the southwestern shore of Lake Assad. If the road is cut by the Syrian Arab Army, then the Islamic State will be cut off from its lifeline to Turkey. The Aleppo / Jarabulus part of ISIS-controlled area would be separated from the rest of the Islamic State by Lake Assad.

I expected the SAA to try to reach Lake Assad from the Kuweires airbase, see Fort Russ: The Scramble for Arabia: Gazprom Rulez! This northern route passes through populated areas along the Euphrates-Aleppo Canal, that would likely be heavily defended. The area east of Ithriyah along the number 44 road is nothing but desert. Ithriyah itself is little more then a camel stop. There is no town named "Tal Abu Zayhn"; the point marked on the map is some kind of oil installation. I hear that somewhere along the road was something called Hill 5.

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Feb 12 2016 9:57 utc | 73

Hoarsewhisperer@52 "5. Good military plans work best when no-one blabs beforehand. How much chatter/bluster did Russia indulge in before its 30th Sept arrival in Syria; and how did it work out?" Exactly, 'Loose lips sink ships'[a saying in WW2 how unguarded talk may give useful information to the enemy]. In the Saudi case they are blustering 'lets you and him fight, I will hold your coats'.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 12 2016 11:01 utc | 74


What happened overnight? Before going to bed, I posted twice. Both times contained the same "email". In the second comment, I changed my "name" ONCE and only in an obvious semi self-mocking manner. That second handle *retained* "dumbass" in it. I don't know why you call that "sock puppetry". It was obviously me, "dumbass". I wasn't hiding it. I wasn't playing ventriloquist.

I notice the question I asked chipnik is gone. Looks like some posts were deleted. All I did was ask Chipnik to reply to a comment on another thread.

b, I do think you blaming me here is: a trivial case of "friendly fire". I don't see or understand the problem.

Maybe I missed something (now deleted). Maybe someone else started posting with more variations on my name but with a different "email". Wasn't me, though obviously I can't prove it.

Posted by: dumbass | Feb 12 2016 13:52 utc | 75

In an armed services hearing on Feb 9, the Lt General (Stewart) in charge of the DIA did not seem to take a Saudi deployment seriously. I guess he could have been bluffing but he said it was all about the Saudis trying to draw more US troops into Syria. More "skin in the game" was what he said.

Starts at 1:05:13 in this video (there's a transcript below it)

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Feb 12 2016 14:07 utc | 76

Is the race to Raqqa over before it started?

IMO the rationale for intervention was that Russia+SAA was not fighting ISIS. If SAA is now moving on Raqqa, that can no longer be said.

Russia+SAA is likely to make more progress over the next week. The longer that US+allies delay in moving against ISIS in force, the more likely that the 'race' never happens.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 12 2016 14:26 utc | 77

Russia Targets Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo and Daraa

Posted by: Oui | Feb 12 2016 15:15 utc | 78

Russian prank to Erdogan. Very interesting story....
Announcement of prank with Erdogan. Russian pranksters Lexus and Vovan talked with president of Turkey Erdogan as Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenjuk.

Posted by: Mazzy | Feb 12 2016 15:51 utc | 79

The US cannot capitulate bang off. If the US ordered KSA (+ Gulf allies), Turkey, israel, to put a sock in it, they would, no question. (> A win for Assad and Russia and allied.)

They haven’t done that, and probably won’t. The US likes to see situations as fluid, complex, dicey, day by day - there is a process, ongoing drama. (While security and military orgs., contractors, profit like there is no tomorrow. Citizens starve..) The US does not claim victory or profit (setting aside ra-ra for the public) nor does it admit defeat. It just veers about, creating chaos and scratching its head while quarrels between different factions occupy all.

End of Empire .. yes while ouch agonisingly slow attrition.

The US will not risk WW3 with Russia. (re. Proxy war in Syria.) Out of the question. It will not sally directly on the ground in Syria - even if KSA appeals to it promising to ‘join in.’ (There might be some symbolic thingies.) Kerry stressed the ‘humanitarian’ aspect at the presser, emphasising some ‘agreement’ to ‘protect / help ppl’ - meaning, I have…nothing really to say. What we see here is shuffling about, temporising, and face-saving.

Syria and its allies, supporters, Russia in first place, will prevail. (Remains the question of the Kurds etc.)

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 12 2016 16:05 utc | 80

When we analyze various statements, the question is "is there a piece of truth in it" or "total bunk". Will KSA really send any troops, and where? My opinion is that Turkey still did not resolve to break with ISIS for good and bite the bullet, the way they broke with PKK, and thus no real anti-ISIS offensive can originate from their soil. Jordan could be "bribed to submission", but they are not particularly willing, so it is not going to happen without a clear green light from Washington. Until we see Saudi troops moving somewhere, building logistic support and so on, this is a hollow talking point.

Concerning the other participants of the "race for Raqqa", they moved a checkpoint in the desert by about 10 miles. The current need for that is to improve the defense of the pivotal truck route that supplies Aleppo region, but a true "race for Raqqa" would require a commitment of many thousands of troops. Which may come there in the fullness of time, but right now there are four major plans in Aleppo area, and two of them are "semi-frozen", "Aleppo thermal plant", closing a large ISIS salient where this plant is, and "liberation of Fu'a and Kafraya", the current strategy seems to be to thicken the connection to Afrin until it indeed chokes off the rebel Aleppo, and the "Azaz pocket" gets snuffed out.

The order of the operations is partially dictated by personal priorities of Shia fighters, thus I think that there will be a race for Fu'a and Kafraya before the true race for Aleppo. But Iran is committing more and more troops and volunteers, while rebel defenses grow crumbly and logistics, wobbly -- they still have a number of crossings from Turkey, so eventually there will be a serious "race". And one if big consideration is Mosul, placing a large force of "people's committee members" near Mosul as they return from Syria.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 12 2016 16:28 utc | 81

Well if b's informed speculation is correct I am relieved to see that the US has finally settled on a coherent policy. For the last few years it was both supporting and fighting Wahabi inspired militias --- it was both sending the liver eaters arms and dropping bombs on them. It simply didn't make sense.

If these speculations are true we will see it in how the propaganda from the West is spun. There will be a big uptick in claims that the Western Syrian liver eaters are in reality moderates or native Turkmen. I find it hard to believe that the Saudis would actually engage their ISIS brethren in combat -- they would probably negotiate cease fires as they moved to a few critical cities.

This might a coherent policy make, but it is still extremely risky. I don't think they are that bold But Turkey?? -- Erdogan just might be crazy enough.

Posted by: ToivoS | Feb 12 2016 18:10 utc | 82

Russia keeps bombing despite Syria truce; Assad vows to fight on

Major powers agreed on Friday to a pause in combat in Syria, but Russia pressed on with its relentless bombing in support of its ally President Bashar al-Assad, who vowed to fight on until he regains full control of the country.

Although billed as a potential breakthrough, the "cessation of hostilities" agreement does not take effect for a week, at a time when Assad's government is poised to win its biggest victory of the war with the backing of Russian air power.

Posted by: okie farmer | Feb 12 2016 18:45 utc | 83

Assad interview (pretty good):

President al-Assad speaks to AFP on Syrian and regional developments

Question 14: Mr. President, do you think that there might be a Turkish intervention in Syria now? And do you think the Saudi threats are serious?

President Assad: Logically, intervention is not possible, but sometimes reality is at odds with logic, particularly when there are irrational people leading a certain state. That’s why I don’t rule that out for a simple reason: Erdogan is a fanatical person with Muslim Brotherhood inclinations. He is living the Ottoman dream. For him, the collapse which took place in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria is something personal. This threatens his political future, on the one hand, and his fanatical Islamist ambitions, on the other. He believes that he has an Islamist mission in our region. The same applies to Saudi Arabia. The collapse of the terrorists in Syria is a collapse of their policies. I tell you that this process is surely not going to be easy for them, and we will certainly confront it.


U.S. wants UAE special forces to train "rebels" IN Syria to then attack Raqqa

United Arab Emirates to Bolster Its Efforts Against ISIS, U.S. Says

American military planners want the Emirati commandos, along with forces from Saudi Arabia, to train the rebels so they can ultimately be used to reclaim the city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. American officials have concluded that hundreds more trainers, advisers and commandos are needed.

The Sauid Foreign Minister said today that IS can only be fought when Assad is gone. That makes it clear what the Saudi "troop offer", which came after a request from the U.S., was made.

Posted by: b | Feb 12 2016 18:58 utc | 84


On its face, it looks like a face-saving measure for the Americans.

Yes, because SAA and the Russians were about to reach a total victory. The Russians made the face-saving measure to show they could do 'diplomacy'; and they really had no choice. What would have happened if they hadn't?

Posted by: okie farmer | Feb 12 2016 19:24 utc | 85

UNSR are and can be, completely worthless. has everyone forgotten the "coalition of the willing" with the 2003 genocide in Iraq ?
You could even use Libya As an example, because if the cowardly Russians and Chinese didn't give their abstension green light, the US would have gone ahead anyway with their war crime spree in Libya anyway.

This ceasefire proposed first by the Russians is another mistake. So much for the "brilliance strategist" of Putin. Inviting in agencies into Syria will be in restriction on military activities of wiping out the Wests proxy terrorists.
There will be more loyal to the west agents on the ground, creating propaganda and calls for the west to intervene in Syria.
They will also create more calls for R2P, which they can spread the lie that the Russians are causing a humanitarian disaster, therefore western intervention is crucial.
The Russians and SAA killing the Wests terrorists, could also be used to lie and say that "moderates" are being killed instead, and with Western agencies on the ground that will have more impact that it would saying the same from the outside.

This peace move initiated by the Russians could also be seen as a Russian desperate attempt through the means of politics by the Russians, to try to stop the US/puppet psychopathic genocidal invaders from going ahead with their invasion plans.
Does Russia feel too isolated in Syria with too many enemies? Are the threats of world War three getting too serious now ?
What are the Chinese going to do re Syria.
That BS propaganda of the Syrian government exterminating the prisoners was timed perfectly with the increase in invasion threats

Posted by: tom | Feb 12 2016 19:55 utc | 86

@ b 83

Do you not think Ragga will have fallen to SAA and allies long before US/UAE "special forces" can get it up to train all of a four person team of rebels in Syria?

Saudi/Ankara fighting 2 losing fronts. Someone has a joke on, eh?


RT has CIA chief John Brennan confirming on CBS 60 minutes (to be aired Sunday) " ISIS used chemical weapons and may have more ..or the ability to manufacture more…..

Given the hand over and destruction of Assad's stock to OPCW, who is the supplier?

Truth shall float.

Posted by: likklemore | Feb 12 2016 20:01 utc | 87

M K Bahdrakumar

US presses ‘pause’ button in Syria

No, it tried to, but it will not work. Anyway. Good diplomatic thinking.

In plain terms, the Russian military operations have met with devastating success lately in strengthening the Syrian regime and scattering the Syrian rebel groups. The US and its regional allies stare at defeat.

They forthwith need an end to the Russian operations so that they can think up a Plan B. The Geneva talks will not have the desired outcome of President Bashar Al-Assad’s ouster unless the tide of war is reversed. Therefore, a cessation of hostilities in Syria is urgently needed.

Whereas a ceasefire brings in legal obligations, which would commit the US to sit across the table and meet the Russian – and, more importantly, Syrian – military counterparts and draw up detailed modalities of implementation, UN Security Council supervision and so on, the ‘cessation of hostilities’ can be punctuated at will without breaking international law.

Meanwhile, US and its allies are keen to gain access to all nooks and corners of Syrian territory, which will eventually help to mobilize any military operations under Plan B, especially ground operations. The humanitarian missions provide the cover for reconnaissance and ground work.

The West has let loose a massive propaganda barrage against the Russian operations. Equally, the refugee crisis moulds the western opinion. The NATO is inching towards the conflict zone. Over and above, Kerry’s diplomacy plays to the domestic gallery in the US. There is already talk that if Hillary Clinton’s candidature falters at some point, which cannot be ruled out, there could be demands from the Democratic Party establishment on Kerry to step in.

At any rate, a humanitarian intervention in Syria may be just what President Barrack Obama needs to salvage his reputation.

Posted by: b | Feb 12 2016 20:16 utc | 88

This is getting scary.

Assad says sees risk of Turkey, Saudi Arabia invading Syria

Nato/turkey and saudi threat to invade syria to topple Assad.

Posted by: Sompler | Feb 12 2016 20:16 utc | 89

Link here:

Posted by: Sompler | Feb 12 2016 20:17 utc | 90

I don't see how The Saudi Arabia army could do anything.They barely made it out in Yemen ,they are too close ideologically to Isis to really fight them and a full out war against Syria ,beside such an action will only weaken Th Saudis rulers and create turmoil in their country.Plus, all that being Said ,The Saudi army is not that impressive despite its expensive toys.The plan foreseen by b is smart but I don't see Saudi Arabia or the us going for it. If they do ,in the current state of affair,It will only serve to destroy even more the image of Saudi Arabia and reveal its close link to Isis to the all world. Such an action will make even more complicated and unacceptable the close alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia in the eyes of public opinion and further the legitimacy of Putin in the world.It feels obvious to me, at this point,that The Saudi won't attack their Isis brothers they help to create.They might act as if.. but on the ground they will support them and attach The Syrian Army.Just like the Us did over the last years before Russia enter into the game and reveal US's hypocrisy. We keep giving credit and common sens to the source of actions leading The neo-cons and the royal Saudis but they definitely lost it.What they want is the fall of Assad and his regime nothing less. Only Might and victory on the ground or the takeover of the imperialist doves in Washington against the hawks could change this attitude.

All that leads me to think that Saudi Arabia is doomed in the foreseeable future with all these unnecessary wars and their domestic problem with the Shia, their general population their cruel regime the new integration of Iran in the global economy and politic their replacement as an oil provider to the us economy by us own resources and their image around the world as a sponsoring state of terrorism.I think the end of Saudi Arabia is coming soon and the royal Saudis not blinded or blinded by their arrogance must already know that.

Posted by: lebretteurfredonnant | Feb 12 2016 20:27 utc | 91

likklemore@86 - "...Given the hand over and destruction of Assad's stock to OPCW, who is the supplier?..."

Same people that supplied them to 'the U.S.-backed rebels' in Aleppo for the false flag chemical attacks last year. Of course, that isn't going to be proven by anyone, anymore. The CIA just sent in A-10s (or drones or whatever) to eliminate whatever evidence remained in the Aleppo labs. Aleppo must really be ready to be liberated if the spooks are already sending in the 'cleaners'.

Oh, sorry... CNN said that was just the evil Russians bombing hospitals and orphanages. Never mind.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Feb 12 2016 21:02 utc | 92

Could you start a new thread and explain what has been agreed today, I can't be the only one who is confused by this ceasefire?
Assad has been on RT saying he is going to fight on, so is there a disconnect between the allies. Has lavrov exceeded his remitt?
Why do they want a ceasefire when they are winning. France snd the UK are denouncing Russia. I won't even bother with Turkey and the gulf states.

Posted by: James lake | Feb 12 2016 21:06 utc | 93


I hope you are right, with this ceasefire probably going to be implemented there cant be any saudi attack, however Turkey is another troublemaker threatening today to invade syria. Where is Iran? They have been very silent past..well years!

However if west/sunni states do invade, then the talk about russian invasion in ukraine-talk, will fall flat for everyone to see.

This is some ugly double standards by western msm/politicans going on right now.

Posted by: Sompler | Feb 12 2016 21:14 utc | 94

2 PavewayIV | Feb 12, 2016 4:02:26 PM | 91

Aleppo must really be ready to be liberated if the spooks are already sending in the 'cleaners'.

IMHO Appears not just baby ISIS but Erdogan is being readied to be thrown under the bus.

Pepe Escobar's take:

[.] Kerry caved in – to realism, actually. Lavrov must have made it very clear the two non-negotiables for Russia; win the Battle of Aleppo, still in progress, and seal the Syria/Turkey border against any manifestation of the Jihadi Highway, “moderate” or otherwise.

Posted by: likklemore | Feb 12 2016 21:28 utc | 95

In a report from Reuters rebel leaders north of Aleppo are claiming that they have received 'excellent quantities' of Grad rockets and have already begun to strike the Axis forces deep behind their lines.

The rebels may now be able to withstand the offensive and hold on until Russia stops bombing next week.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 12 2016 21:40 utc | 96

lebretteurfredonnant@90 - "What they want is the fall of Assad and his regime nothing less."

And if they can't have that today, they'll take it tomorrow. The U.S.-orchestrated Syrian rebel uprising was one battle in a long war of destabilizing, weakening and splitting up Syria permanently. Losing one battle today is irrelevant. If the Saudis, the U.S. or anyone else 'liberates' the eastern oil and gas fields from ISIS, they will be - for all practical purposes - lost to Syria. The stolen Syrian resources will simply be handed over to the remains of the FSA or the new fake Sunnistan. The oil and gas will either flow 1) through Jordan to Israel, or 2) flow through an Azaz-Jarabulus zone pipeline to Turkey. Turkish-bound oil and gas could also be sent to northeastern Syria to the Fishkhabour pumping station and on to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline. The point is to deny Syria it's own oil and gas (and the billions in revenue) and force it to rely on costly foreign sources. Syria, previously self-sufficient for oil and gas, would have to import. I'm sure the Israelis would be eager to hook them on it's new Leviathan gas. Desperate customers are easily-controlled customers.

The land theft by Team Chaos has a bonus benefit: it denies Iran the path for its planned Iran-Iraq-Syria natural gas pipeline (previously called the Friendship Pipeline). ZATO will not tolerate Iran selling it's gas to Europe - that's almost as bad as Russia selling ITS gas to Europe. Qatar's pipeline is somewhere in the mix, but ZATO is not slaughtering Ukrainians, Iraqis and Syrians for Qatar. It's slaughtering them so neither Russia or Iran can sell their gas to Europe and make any money, period. Qatar is simply a convenient replacement until Israel figures out how to get theirs there. After that, Qatar and it's pipeline will be tossed under the bus.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Feb 12 2016 21:41 utc | 97

James lake@92 - "...I can't be the only one who is confused by this ceasefire?"

There is no ceasefire so there's nothing to be confused about, James. Lavrov is tired of the U.S. trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as if it still has some kind of magical negotiating power. The U.S. LOST their proxy war - it's over. Russia was polite for a while and gave the U.S. plenty of opportunity to save face - the U.S. ignored them.

Geneva was simply the U.S. is trying to negotiate surrender terms as if the FSA has won the war and Assad had lost. That didn't go well, so Kerry is simultaneously trying to restart Syria's surrender talks while Team Chaos schemes a soft-invasion plan by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Lavrov got tired and said, "Fine. Let's have a ceasefire against everyone but the terrorists. All we have to do is agree who the terrorists are or are not, and then we can talk about Assad's surrender terms." The point is that Team Chaos and Russia/Syria are NEVER going to agree on who is a terrorist or not. They will never be able to decide, which gives Russia/Syria/Iran plenty of time to keep killing the real terrorists and retaking Syrian land.

The 'agreement' was not for the ceasefire, itself. It was an agreement to define the terms of the ceasefire, which Lavrov knows perfectly well will never be reached and satisfactory to all sides involved. He's just tired of listening to Kerry dictate the terms of Assad's surrender as if the U.S./Team Chaos/FSA has won. I don't know if Lavrov drinks heavily, but he should.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Feb 12 2016 22:01 utc | 98

OT @ 95 wow... here is an article from ssr for you and any other american centric folk to read.. AMERICA AT BAY – EVADING DESTINY by Dr. Michael Brenner

Posted by: james | Feb 12 2016 22:04 utc | 99

All I can say is I hope Aleppo becomes a modern Stalingrad for Team Chaos and that somehow Syrian territorial integrity is maintained. Like Lavrov, we are all tired by this conflict..

Posted by: Lozion | Feb 12 2016 22:15 utc | 100

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