Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 18, 2016

ISIS Moves To Syria Where Erdogan Still Aims For Aleppo

The Iraqi army started a large operation to liberate Mosul from Islamic State jihadists. But the forces, in total some 40,000, are still several dozen kilometers away from the city limits. They will have to capture several towns and villages and pass many IED obstacles before coming near to the center and house to house fighting. It might take many month to eliminated the last stay-behind ISIS cells in Mosul.

About one million civilians live in Mosul. Many, many more than in east-Aleppo. Many of them were sympathetic with the new overlords when ISIS stormed in two years ago. French, American, Kurdish, Iraqi and Turkish artillery are pounding them now. Airstrikes attack even the smallest fighting position. When the city will be conquered it will likely be destroyed. The imminent fight over Mosul might be the reason why John Kerry dialed down his hypocritical howling over east-Aleppo in Syria which is under attack from Syrian and Russian forces.

The attack on Mosul proceeds on three axes. From the north Kurdish Peshmerga under U.S. special force advisors lead the fighting. Iraqi forces attack from the east and south. The way to the west, towards Syria, is open. The intend of the U.S. is to let ISIS fighters, several thousand of them, flee to Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in Syria. They are needed there to further destroy the Syrian state.

We pointed out here that this move will create the "Salafist principality" the U.S. and its allies have striven to install in east-Syria since 2012. The "mistake" of the U.S. bombing of Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor was in support of that plan. Other commentators finally catch up with that conclusion.

The Turks are openly talking about such an escape plan for ISIS in Mosul. The Turkish news agency Anadolu published this "sensitive" operations plan. Point 4 says:

An escape corridor into Syria will be left for Daesh so they can vacate Mosul


Two points in the Turkish plan will not come true.

  • The Iraqi government has ordered that no Turkish troops take part in the Mosul operation and will designate them as enemies should they try.
  • The Sunni "Nineveh Guard", trained by Turkey, paid by the Saudis and led by the former Anbar governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, will also be excluded.

It was the Saudi proxy al-Nujaifi who practically handed Anbar over to ISIS by ordering his troops to flee when ISIS attacked. He and his Saudi and Turkish sponsors want to create an independent Sunni statelet in west Iraq just like the Kurds created their own entity within north Iraq.

The U.S. hopes that the influx of ISIS fighters into Syria will keep the Russians and Iranians trapped in the "quagmire" Obama prescribed and finally destroy the Syrian state. It seems to have mostly given up on other plans. The U.S. military now acknowledges that fighting the Russian air defense in Syria would be a real challenge:

"It’s not like we’ve had any shoot at an F-35,” the official said of the next-generation U.S. fighter jet. “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.”

There is a "no-fly zone" over west-Syria and it is the Russians who control it. All U.S. and Turkish talk about such a zone is moot. The Obama administration has for now also given up on other plans. The recent National Security Council meeting deferred on further decisions:

Consideration of other alternatives, including the shipment of arms to U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria, and an increase in the quantity and quality of weapons supplied to opposition fighters in Aleppo and elsewhere, were deferred until later, officials said. U.S. military action to stop Syrian and Russian bombing of civilians was even further down the list of possibilities.

The only U.S. "hope" for its Syria plans is now the facilitation of another ISIS influx. That and the CIA coordinated actions of its allies. The Saudis Foreign Minister announced that his country will increase weapons flow to its al-Qaeda proxies in Syria. The "rebels" are still receiving TOW anti-tank missiles and other heavy weapons.

Turkish proxy forces, some Syrians, some "Turkmen" from Chechnya and elsewhere, have taken Dabiq from ISIS. The village is said to become a focal point of a future apocalyptic Christian-Muslim battle. A lot of "western" commentators pointed to that as a reason why ISIS would fight for it. But that battle is only predicted for the period after the return of the Mahdi which has not been announced. The current ideological value of Dabiq is therefore low and, like in Jarablus, ISIS cooperated well and moved out before the Turkish proxies moved in.

The Russians had allowed Turkey to enter Syria only within a limit of some 15 kilometers south of the Turkish border. Heavy artillery would have to stay on the Turkish side. The sole original purpose of the Turkish invasion was to prevent a Kurdish corridor from the eastern Kurdish areas in Syria to Afrin in the west. Such a corridor would have limited ISIS access to Turkey.

The Kurdish corridor has been prevented and ISIS access to Turkish controlled areas and Turkey itself is as open as ever. The Turkish military sees this as sufficient for its aims:

Taking control of Dabiq had eliminated the threat to Turkey from rockets fired by the jihadists, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a written statement.


The Turkish military wants to halt the operation. But Erdogan and his proxies forces want to go further south and west to attack the Syrian army encirclement of east-Aleppo:

President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Sunday Dabiq's liberation was a "strategic and symbolic victory" against Islamic State.

He told Reuters it was important strategically that the Turkey-backed forces continue their advance toward the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab.

To move to al-Bab Turkish artillery, with its units relying on conscripts, would have to move south of the Turkish-Syrian border. Any attack on them by the Syrian or Russian forces would thus become legal. Kurdish guerilla would be a constant threat. This explains the new split between the Turkish military and political forces. It will be interesting to watch how that dispute develops.

For Thursday the Russian command announced a unilateral temporary ceasefire in east-Aleppo to let the Jihadis move out. British and other special forces, said to be embedded with al-Qaeda, will be happy for the chance to leave.

In Iraq some Shia militia are moving towards Tal Afar to cut of the ISIS path to the west. Russia promised to take political and military measures should it detect an ISIS move. In east-Syria the Russian and Syrian air-forces, Hizbullah and more Shia militia from Iraq are now preparing surprises for the expected ISIS influx from Mosul. How much can they risk when the U.S. provides further air-support for the ISIS move?

Posted by b on October 18, 2016 at 9:21 UTC | Permalink

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ot - best quote in a long time over at pat langs site..
" turcopolier said...

mike allen

You have become a Borgist propagandist. Goodbye. pl"

speaking of borgist propagandists - merkel and hollandaze sauce are offering it up 24/7.. what bullshite artists..

Posted by: james | Oct 20 2016 6:14 utc | 101

can't sleep after the debate ... too unpleasant ... checked the wire services ...
Turkish airstrike killed 160-200+ Kurds in Northern Syria
Reuters: Turkey kills 160 to 200 Syrian Kurdish militants in airstrikes.

not much to the story ... la-di-dah, tomorrow is another day ....

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Oct 20 2016 6:28 utc | 102

As one suspected... In 2011, the truth was not hard to see

Posted by: GoraDiva | Oct 20 2016 7:14 utc | 103

@99, Wwinsti

So, is it the s-300 and its purported ability to shoot down ballistic missiles that has them wanting a new hotline, or is it the pantsirs, which are in the hands of Syrians that has them worried?

It is a combination of all of them, including ECM (ECCM) suite (e.g. Krasukha et al). This is sufficient for now to deny what US concept of land-air (what have you--each time it is a new "term") battle is based upon--initial ECM suppression and then overwhelming the enemy with salvos of stand-off weapons, such as Tomahawk missiles. This always worked against fourth and third world hell holes, it will not against what and how is deployed in Syria by Russia.

Posted by: SmoothieX12 | Oct 20 2016 13:09 utc | 104

Russian live monitoring of the East Aleppo evacuation points - I find this rather extraordinary (in a good way).

Posted by: PavewayIV | Oct 20 2016 13:09 utc | 105

The Kurd deny the Turkish massacre, say only 4 killed (as far as I found and now cannot find that tweet) ... Thought Erdogan, who would rather be spanked than ignored, was trying to throw another spanner in the works. Bizarre declarations of hopes of early victory seen wrt Mosul which seem ominous. Not in a good mood this morning.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Oct 20 2016 15:26 utc | 106

Fox just published expanded AP story on Erdogan's air campaign against syrian kurds
fox: Turkey unleashing fury of airstrikes against US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Oct 20 2016 17:00 utc | 107

Susan Sunflower@106 Kurdish press reporting far less: Syrian Kurds say Turkish strikes kill 10 Kurdish fighters, wounds 20

The usual rule of thumb is to divide any enemy casualty figures Turkey initially reports by five, and double any casualties the Kurds claim. <--sarcasm.

Still, another sad development in the U.S. throwing the Kurds under the bus.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Oct 20 2016 19:11 utc | 108


Posted by: PavewayIV | Oct 20 2016 19:12 utc | 109

I would call that, jumping from the frying pan, in to the fire ?? LOL ??

Posted by: Mr Reynard | Oct 21 2016 1:16 utc | 110

#109, #110

I wouldn't laugh at this regardless of how underhanded the Kurdish Hassakah adventure against the government indeed was. I feel for the Kurds and I am still confident there is plenty of decent people still in YPG.

Perhaps this was a good lesson for Kurds in what they can really expect from their American allies in the long run. To be allowed to be genocided as soon as they're not that important any longer, more or less.

Perhaps it's time for Volodya to give Erdo a quick ring and tell him to CTFD with those attacks on YPG a bit. If he hasn't already.

Posted by: Quadriad | Oct 21 2016 1:29 utc | 111

Laguerre: My tinfoil hat buddies in Baghdad dug up some obscure Turkish paper revealing Erdogan's secret grand scheme: Milli Misak is back. I can't find any Turkish publication named 'Delilish', but it's just the old Ottoman map (I think).

I was only half-serious before suggesting Erdogan wanted to re-establish the old borders, but he's getting closer and closer to that now. I can't see how he could grab Aleppo or Mosul back, but who knows. Putin has just warned him away from Mosul, and I don't think Erdogan liked that suggestion one bit. I didn't know the 'old' empire included Erbil and went down to Kirkuk. That would be a bit of a fight to reclaim those for Turkey. Maybe Erdogan will just be satisfied with Barzanistan as a kind of suburb of Turkey.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Oct 21 2016 3:55 utc | 112

RT: Syria warns it will ‘down Turkish planes next time,’ calls bombing of Kurds ‘flagrant aggression’.

What confused me wrt Turkey's action was what re-action they were hoping to provoke ... Since these attacks seemed unlikely to receive anyone's blessing and Erdogan's current standing with both the USA and Russia seems tentative. Could they really be trying to widen the conflict to create a massive "fog of war" in which to advance Turkey's larger regional aims and to throw a spanner in any sort of Russia / USA communication.

The Kurds are obviously being screwed by Turkey, but so is IraqI sovereignty. I cannot stomach again having to debunk the predictably vaguely "positive" response to Clinton's continued proposal of a "no-fly zone" ... trying to explain to the poorly informed debate watchers that such as thing would provide no genuine benefit to the long-suffering Syrians and be part of a slippery slope (and illegal) to Libya-like chaos.

Again I wonder about that apparent rogue factions of u.s. advisors of the Biden/McCain flavor.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Oct 21 2016 4:48 utc | 113

re Paveway 112

the Turkish newspaper could be Diriliş Postası. It's the nearest in the Wiki list of Turkish newspapers, and could have got manglled in being transcribed into Arabic and back again. No it's not an old Ottoman map - it's been drawn up in my view to frighten people over Erdogan's ambitions. Rather obscure newspaper.

Posted by: Laguerre | Oct 21 2016 5:01 utc | 114

Laguerre@114 - WEll, If I were the Assyrian King of the Universe, I would keep my sickle-sword sharpened up just in case I needed to smite some pesky foreigners.
Free Old Mosul!

Posted by: PavewayIV | Oct 21 2016 6:45 utc | 115

Free Old Mosul!
You obviously know more about military matters than me, but it doesn't look to me that the offensive is going too well, certainly not to be able to declare Mission Accomplished by 8th November. Once you clear out the propaganda coming from Washington, and indeed Abbadi in Baghdad, and look at what the correspondents embedded on the front line are saying, it's not that optimistic. Even those dedicated to militarism, like Martin Chulov of the Guardian, are saying the going is difficult, once they've got past saying the obligatory part about what a wonderful success the attack is, and how Da'ish is running away. Of course intial resistance has to be overcome, but the countryside is the easy bit, where the air force can bomb away without problem. And today Da'ish has launched a diversionary attack in Kirkuk.

Posted by: Laguerre | Oct 21 2016 8:11 utc | 116

Tass is reporting that the Belgians are refuting the Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) numbers submitted by the Russians on the radar tracks of the f-16s that killed a number of Syrian civilians several days ago.

The Belgian Defense Ministry says the aircraft numbers submitted by Russia’s Defense Ministry to Belgium are not correct and are not relevant to airplanes of the Belgian air forces.


A few weeks ago, US administration officials discussed the following:

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me. One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.

The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented in the Deputies Committee meeting by Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, expressed support for such “kinetic” options, the official said. That marked an increase of support for striking Assad

So could this be the reflagging dry run speculated on in earlier threads here at MOA?

Posted by: Wwinsti | Oct 21 2016 10:47 utc | 117

Laguerre@116 - I suppose I should ask where, exactly, Old Mosul (the Assyrian capitol) is located. They always say it's something like twenty miles north of present day Mosul, but don't say if there's a modern city there or if it's just ruins. Is it as far as Dohuk? I don't mean the Old City part of current Mosul, which is the part I believe the Kurds had settled before ISIS showed up.

As far as the current Mosul campaign, my armchair guess is that the ISIS leaders have long since fled and the foreign cannon-fodder ISIS will fall apart as soon as their ammo and supplies get low. They'll melt into the local population (or fleeing refugees) after a quick shave. That will leave the die-hard local jihadis to decide how long the battle for the city itself will rage.

Nobody seems to be able pin a reliable number on that group or guess the amount of conviction they'll have. I would think they number in the thousands, but will see the writing on the wall once the various groups get closer to the city. Despite that, I would think they have few options but to fight. If they (the locals) lose, then they can't simply shave and go back to civilian life like nothing ever happened, could they? Too many of their neighbors will finger them as ex-ISIS. Maybe that's not the case in Mosul though. I wonder if there's enough sympathy with the cause (even if not for the actual ISIS caliphate) where their neighbors wouldn't rat them out to the government. That would be a good thing rather than see Mosul leveled to kill every last holdout.

From a military perspective, that's the only observation I can make: the U.S. and the Iraqi army would prefer to flatten an entire city to clear it rather then start kicking in doors house-to-house again. The Shia militias wouldn't mind door-kicking, but that would turn out... rather badly. I'll just hope for the residents of Mosul that neither option is employed.

The elections are actually a huge damn problem. Forget what the neocons want in Mosul. If I were an ISIS leader (or their Saudi backers) and wanted to get America to back the hell off, then I would do whatever I could to send as many U.S. soldiers and contractors as possible back to the U.S. in body bags before the election. That doesn't have to be in Mosul - there's American troops all over Iraq. Worse yet, imagine how bad it would look if they took a bunch of Americans hostage just before the elections. I'm guessing Clinton's war-mongering wouldn't play to well anymore.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Oct 21 2016 11:08 utc | 118

Posted by: xyz | Oct 21 2016 11:28 utc | 119

re 118

Old Mosul = Eski Mosul. It's the site of the dam and just to the south.

There's no reason to suppose that Da'ish leaders would necessarily run away. As much as American commanders run away and leave their troops, don't they? Why would US commanders be better? Da'ish are serious fighters. It's only US propaganda which has them running away, because that's what the US wishes to see.

Posted by: Laguerre | Oct 21 2016 12:49 utc | 120

LaguerreW120 - "...There's no reason to suppose that Da'ish leaders would necessarily run away. As much as American commanders run away and leave their troops, don't they? Why would US commanders be better?..."

I'm not characterizing it as cowardice and abandoning their troops. I'm saying it is the will of the people that pay them. Dead ISIS commanders are of no use to their investors. They are somewhere else today other than inside Mosul because their masters have other plans for them in the future.

And U.S. commanders are no better or worse - they would do whatever they are ordered to do, and they are generally not ordered to die with their little people troops. Not that that's even an issue - CENTCOM is safely tucked away in Florida. They would desert if they lost air conditioning for more than four hours.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Oct 21 2016 19:49 utc | 121

@ PavewayIV.......They would desert if they lost air conditioning for more than four hours.

LOL!!!! Don't ever lose your sense of humor.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Oct 21 2016 21:23 utc | 122

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