Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 19, 2017

U.S. Attacks Syrian Government Forces - It Now Has To Make Its Choice

Addendum added below

The Syrian army is on the way to liberate the ISIS besieged city of some 100,000 and garrison of Deir Ezzor in the east of the country. The U.S. has trained a few thousand "New Syrian Army" insurgents in Jordan and is reportedly prepared to march these and its own forces from Jordan through the east-Syrian desert all the way up to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. About a year ago it occupied the al-Tanf (al-Tanaf) border station which consists of only a few buildings in the mid of the desert. The station between Syria and Iraq near the Jordan border triangle was previously held by a small ISIS group.

A U.S. move from the south up towards the Euphrates would cut off the Syrian government from the whole south-east of the country and from its people in Deir Ezzor. While that area is sparsely populated it also has medium size oil and gas fields and is the land connection to the Syrian allies in Iraq.

With the western part of the country relatively quiet, the Syrian government and its allies decided to finally retake the south-eastern provinces from ISIS. They want to lift the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor and close the border between Syria and Iraq with its own forces. The move will also block any potential U.S. invasion from the south by retaking the road to al-Tanf and the Syrian-Iraqi border (red arrows). The sovereign Syrian state will not give up half of the country to an illegal occupation by ISIS or the U.S. At the same time as the eastern operations are running consolidation and clearing operations against ISIS in the middle and west of the countries will take place (green arrows).

Map by OZ_Analysis (modified by MoA) - bigger

Yesterday a small battalion size force (~2-300 men) of the regular Syrian army, Syrian National Defense Organization volunteers and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMU of the Kata'ib al-Imam Ali) marched on the road from the west towards al-Tanf. They were about 23 kilometers away from the border station when they were attack by U.S. aircraft coming in low from Jordan. The U.S. jets directly fired at the convoy, allegedly after earlier giving some "warning shots". At least one Syrian tank and several other vehicles were destroyed. Six Syrian government forces were reported killed and more were wounded.

The U.S. command claimed that this was a "defensive" move to "protect" its soldiers at the al-Tanf station. There are U.S. and British special forces stationed near the station who lead and train the NSA contingent - all together a few 100 men.

The U.S. attack was clearly a willful, illegal attack on Syrian ground against legitimate forces of the sovereign Syrian government. (The Iraqi PMU contingent in Syria is a legitimate allied force under control of the Iraqi prime minister.) There is no clause in international law, no UNSC resolution or anything similar, that could justify such an attack. The U.S. military has no right at all to be at al-Tanf or anywhere else in Syria. There is nothing to "defend" for it. If it dislikes regular Syrian and Iraqi forces moving in their own countries  towards their own border station and retaking it from Jihadi "rebels", it can and should move out and go home. Moreover - the U.S. claims it is "fighting ISIS" in Syria. Why then is it attacking the Syrian government forces while these launch a large operation against the very same enemy?

The coalition led by the U.S. military claimed it asked Russia to intervene and that Russia tried to deter the Syrian force to move towards al-Tanf. I am told that this claim is incorrect. Russia supports the Syrian move to the east and the retaking of the border. The move will be reinforced and continue. The revamped Syrian air defense will actively protect it. Russia will support it with its own forces if needed.

The illegitimate occupation forces, the U.S. and British forces and their proxies, will have to move out of al-Tanf or they will have to directly fight the Syrian government forces and all its allies. They have no right to be there at all. The Iraqi PMU in Syria, some of which were hurt in yesterday's U.S. attack, are an active part of the coalition against ISIS in Iraq. If the U.S. fights it in Syria it will also have to fight it in Iraq (and elsewhere). Russia is able and willing to reinforce its own contingent in Syria to help the government to regain the Syrian east.

The U.S. has no legitimate aim in Syria. It is somewhat tolerated in the north-east where it helps Syrian-Kurdish forces to fight ISIS and to liberate Raqqa. That does not give it ANY right to occupy Syria's east or to attack Syrian government forces. When Raqqa is done all U.S. forces in the north-east will have to again move out.

Together with its many subordinate NATO and Gulf allies the U.S. has the military and economic power to destroy the Syrian military. It can eliminate the Syrian government under President Assad and occupy the whole country. That would be a large war which would probably escalate into a global fight against Russia, Iran and other countries. It would necessitate a several decades long follow-up occupation for "nation building" while constantly fighting against a large al-Qaeda aligned Takfiri insurgency in Syria and all its neighboring countries (especially in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey where U.S. friendly governments would fall). The war would cost several trillion U.S. dollars, a large number of casualties and cause decades long chaos in a geo-politically sensitive region.

The U.S. has a simple choice: Either go in with full force and bear the above consequences, or concede to the sovereign Syrian government and its allies and coordinate with them to retake the country from ISIS and al-Qaeda. This will have to be done as they, not the U.S., see it proper to do. To believe that the U.S. can take the east and convert into some peaceful vassal statelet is pure fantasy. Way too many regional forces and interests are strung against that. There is little grey between these black and white alternatives.

The only tactically thinking U.S. military and intelligence services will try to avoid to choose between these. They will use their Jihadist proxy forces in west-Syria to break their current ceasefire with the Syrian government side and launch a diversion for their moves into the Syrian east. The Syrian government would then probably have to delay its larger operations in the east. 

But that would not change the strategic situation. The choice the U.S. people and their government have to make will still be the same. The point in time to finally accept it may move out a few month while the fighting escalates and causes more damage on all sides. The choice would still be the same. It is all-in or out. The best time to take it is now.

Addendum (6:00am):

There are some maps flowing around which assert that Iran is seeking a military land communication route via Iraq into Syria and beyond. They show some fantasy route up north through Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish territory as the "current route" and the roads between Damascus and Baghdad as "future route". The claim is that military equipment moves along these roads.

It is nonsense. Iran did not and does not need such land routes for military exchanges with its allies in Syria and Lebanon. Where was that Iranian land route in 2006 when the U.S. occupied Iraq while Israel attacked Lebanon? Where was that land route when ISIS occupied half of Iraq and Syria? There was no such route and Iranian support still reached Hizbullah in 2006 and later Syria. It came by air, by ship and, most important, by other means.

By holding up such fantasy maps certain interests want to insinuate that the area is "strategically important" for the U.S. and that the U.S. must therefore occupy south-east Syria. It is true that the road network between Syria and Iraq has some economical importance. Like all roads these are used for local commerce. But history demonstrates that they are not militarily strategic asset in the sense of an essential, overarching need.

Posted by b on May 19, 2017 at 8:02 UTC | Permalink

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White Helmets helping Hama civilians with correct application of Shari'a law (KSA/UK guaranteed?)

Posted by: Mina | May 19 2017 8:19 utc | 1

Thanks b. Always good getting your take.

Posted by: Peter AU | May 19 2017 8:28 utc | 2

The U.S. has trained a few thousand "New Syrian Army" insurgents in Jordan and is reportedly prepared to march these and its own forces from Jordan through the east-Syrian desert...

Prepared to? I don't know where you're getting your intel from, but as I've already mentioned, your map is at least a few weeks old.

Posted by: LXV | May 19 2017 8:29 utc | 3

And as usual, the western MSM, politicians wont condemn this violation of international law. Isnt this amazing? This really show how the propaganda in the works in the west. Really disgusting.

Posted by: Anon | May 19 2017 8:35 utc | 4

The US government have made it clear many times that they hardly see a difference between Islamic State fighters and the Assad "regime". That being the case it is not surprising that this incident happened. Could John McCains recent silence on Trump's investigation have anything to do with it? Not long ago McCain and Grayham wanted an Arab force aligned with the US to invade Syria, when asked what would happen in the event of Russia intervening he replied "they will do nothing". As b points out there are few options, either the Russians back Assads troops or they do nothing, thereby conceding vast swaths of Syrian territory to the terrorists, which is what General Flynn said [in a recorded interview with Mehdi Hasan the US and its allies have wanted all along. Putin must now decide is he with the US and their patition of Syria or with Assad?

Posted by: harrylaw | May 19 2017 8:43 utc | 5

The choice the U.S. people and their government have to make will still be the same.

The U.S. people have nothing to say.
And b, what do you mean with "their government"?
The president? No one with power takes him seriously.
The House of Representatives? Their opinion is clear:

For six years, we have watched the Syrian regime launch wave after wave of unrelenting destruction on the people of Syria. Airstrikes, chemical weapons attacks, forced starvation, industrial-scale torture, and the deliberate targeting of hospitals, schools and marketplaces with precision bombs and crude barrel bombs are what Syrians suffer every day.

Just last month we saw footage of entire families snuffed out by sarin gas – a chemical weapon that Assad supposedly gave up under a deal brokered by Russia and the Obama Administration.

The number of dead is estimated at close to 500,000. Another 14 million have been driven from their homes.

And while ISIS plays a role in the violence in Syria, it is Bashar al-Assad and his backers – among them Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah – who are the main drivers of this death and destruction. ISIS has no airplanes. No, it is Russian and Syrian fighter planes and helicopters that drop bombs on hospitals and schools. It is Hezbollah and IRGC fighters who attack cities, burn crops and prevent food, water and medical supplies from reaching vulnerable civilians.

It is Assad’s secret police and intelligence groups who kidnap, torture and murder civilians from every ethnic group and political party. Sunni, Shia, Christians, Alawite – none are safe.

Their choice will be: all-in

Posted by: From The Hague | May 19 2017 9:22 utc | 6

The Syrian Army was getting too close to the Pentagon’s ISIS buddies and Israel was getting nervous that peace was breaking out in a part of Syria, so they just had to bomb the Syrians!!

Posted by: Greg Bacon | May 19 2017 9:46 utc | 7

The Russians will make it clear they are not going to quietly step out of the way for the US. Only delusional neocons are capable of convincing themselves that this would be a likely outcome in such circumstances.

The US picked this latest point of attack because it far from Russian air defenses and it seemed likely they could get away with it. Similar interventions may continue but if so, sometime in the not too distant future, US planes will be shot down. The MSM media campaign has probably already been prepared to announce the event.

Posted by: Perimtr | May 19 2017 9:49 utc | 8

Here's the Russian response to the attack . . . "Absolutely unacceptable"

Posted by: Perimtr | May 19 2017 9:56 utc | 9

I think everyone knows what the Russian response will be other than the non-response they have already given: nothing.

The US regime knows this. The Russians know this.

The Russians will not attack the terrorists invading eastern Syria as long as they have US regime clowns riding along as human shields.

Putin/Lavrof: "Our American partners...blah, blah, blah..."

The real questions is what is Iraq going to do. They have already stated that they plan on kicking the US regime troops out of Iraq. While US regime figures have talked about essentially turning Iraq into a massive US military outpost.

Forget Putin, there is no way he is going to start bombing US regime troops.

But the Iraqi moment of truth is what is the key question. Will they roll over and let the US start carving up Syria and next Iraq? Or will they finally show some backbond and start grounding US regime aircraft, shutting down US regime military outposts, confinging regime troops to barracks and bases, and finally kicking the US out.

If Iraq steps up and forges ahead with Syria on securing their common border it doesn't matter what Putin and Lavrov do pussyfooting around their "American partners".

Posted by: terril | May 19 2017 10:13 utc | 10

Americans are so arrogant and stupid that they have a hard time understanding when they have nothing to gain. Or that they have lost. That they got their asses whooped. So like a retard you have to show it multiple times before they get it. In many instances they do something because they have nothing else better to do. Does not matter the harm it does. Mostly to themselves. Didn't neaopline say when the enemy is doing stupid, dont interrupt them. And by the way how the US lost all its gold to France. Now it survives on faith. The world is far stupider to believe in that faith cause as those who went before them learnt, that faith got them all slaughtered.

Posted by: Igor Bundy | May 19 2017 10:19 utc | 11

as a reply to Posted by: harrylaw.. Hey if you want to die for Al Qaeda and ISIS so be it.. This war will take much longer but the and end result will be the same. Syrians have shown themselves to not be as stupid as americans thought they are. The last war won by americans was ??? against people with bows and arrows..

Posted by: Igor Bundy | May 19 2017 10:22 utc | 12

ops sorry it was to Posted by: From The Hague

Posted by: Igor Bundy | May 19 2017 10:23 utc | 13

We know from the Wesley Clark revelations from 2003 that Syria is just one of 7 countries surrounding Israel that were targeted for either government take over or invasion. Iran is the bigger fish than Syria so Syria is the nut that needs to be cracked first.

If we look at the synchronized western propaganda it is also clear how each of these countries has become a target and then was forced into becoming IMF/One Bank slave states while their country was looted and their infrastructure destroyed.

This entire IMF/BIS/WB/Central Bank controlled western "democratic" world are nothing but Rothschild's vassal states. Nato is actually Zato and is little more than the Rothschild's army.

When we look at the situation in South East Syria, and consider that it was Jordanian jets that bombed the convoy, then we are forced to realize that this is not about carving out a US statelet, it is about carving off a big chunk of Syria for "lebensraum" for Israel.

This is why Assad was forced to send his forces east, because attacking south towards Golan would have instantly lead to retribution by Israel, and north into Idlib would have lead to retribution from Erdogan.

So Assad sent his army east and got spanked by Israel through her vassal Jordan anyway. The message is very clear, Assad's push to Al-Tanf would have boxed in the Israeli/Rothschild vassal armies staging in Jordan along the border and preparing to occupy south-eastern Syria on behalf of Israel.

So all of south east Syria to the Jordanian/Iraqi border is now "reserved" by Israel for future growth. Any further attack by Assad in this region, just like his shooting down of an Israeli F16, will lead to disproportionate response by Israel's vassals. There are certainly dozens of war mongering US naval officers chomping at the bits to be the ones allowed to send in another 60 cruise missiles to take out another airfield that threatens Israel's expansion into Syria and its ultimate conquest.

Assad will be forced to head straight to Del Ezzor leaving a long line of communications exposed to the Israel's vassal army heading north. Once this happends Assad will be boxed in in the west and will slowly be bled to death by the money changers.

Posted by: Heros | May 19 2017 10:56 utc | 14

The way French gov radio reported it yesterday was "50 proregime fighters killed in a IS attack"

Posted by: Mina | May 19 2017 11:03 utc | 15

So like a retard you have to show it multiple times before they get it. Posted by: Igor Bundy | May 19, 2017 6:19:26 AM | 11

This is perhaps the most efficient description of the American condition that I've read here at MofA. And, in some industries at least, there's some profit made behind bankable, predictable, retarded strategy.

One side are genocidal maniacs proven by repeated attempts at erasing history and ethnic cleansing...for the other side it's an existential war with more honourable and capable allies. With any luck, Syria, Iraq AND nato ally Turkey will be turned against ill-conceived US desires for the region.

Posted by: MadMax2 | May 19 2017 11:06 utc | 16

so whose jets - f15s? - were they? the us' or jordan's?

and whose will they be next time?

does syria have the gear to defend its airspace?

i imagine it requires anti-aircraft missiles. i can't imagine syrian-american 'dog fights'.

or does it require the russians to do it for them?

thanks b, for a solid summary of where we are now.

looks like the rump is being led by neo-cons, with a ring in his nose.

is he in ksa today? or tel aviv? betraying the american people?

hell, murdering the syrian people! signing their death warrant.

hillary would have done the same. sooner.

Posted by: jfl | May 19 2017 11:09 utc | 17

My immediate reaction to this event was that the US-funded fighters were in imminent danger of destruction and expulsion from Syria. The air-strike was intended to stop what was otherwise likely to be a victorious advance of the Syrian army. I suppose it was a red-line for the US. They weren't willing to see their so expensively trained recruits destroyed.

Though I quite agree that it was completely illegal.

Posted by: Laguerre | May 19 2017 11:11 utc | 18

Igor Bundy So like a retard you have to show it multiple times before they get it.

But you apperently didn't get that the US war industry didn't lose at all....

Posted by: From The Hague | May 19 2017 11:13 utc | 19

@10 terril

i agree with you on the invincibility of a combined syria-iraq and with hezbollah-iranian support ... i just don't see the leadership in iraq. they're going to have a have revolution there - at least one, maybe one in iraqi kurdistan, too - first. or at the same time.

i pity the iraqis, the syrians ... all the blood spilled by american neocons, for nearly 15 years in the new american century, and for that long on the other side of 2000 in iraq.

there must be a war crimes tribunal for the us at the end of all this. it cannot be allowed to just walk away from crimes of this magnitude.

Posted by: jfl | May 19 2017 11:18 utc | 20

re Mina 1

The video says Daraa, not Hama. I find it odd that White Helmets, even if in cahoots with Nusra, would actually allow themselves to be videoed picking up bodies executed by Nusra. It happened once before in Idlib; I would have thought they would have learned and stayed out of it. A complicated form of false flag? One faction getting back at another? I don't know.

Posted by: Laguerre | May 19 2017 11:19 utc | 21

The strike is a nicety made to KSA and its summit
I bet they will announce they want peace with Israel, just to corner Syria and Lebanon.

Posted by: Mina | May 19 2017 11:27 utc | 22

@4 anon

this is beyond propaganda ... the un, the eu/nato ... this is complicity. this is as surely aggression as the german invasion of poland. qualitatively no different. the quantity is on the way, i imagine.

Posted by: jfl | May 19 2017 11:28 utc | 23

Sorry, Daraa not Hama. The red keffiehs correspond indeed with the Beduin you find in Daraa.
The WH have aknowledged their humanitarian part in it (it is in the comments posted under the video):
They are very proud to help the local tribal customs, they tell us. Just the way KSA would argue, isn't it?

Posted by: Mina | May 19 2017 11:30 utc | 24

And just as KSA would twist it, it ends with a semi-apologize and an admonition ("2 guys have been punished for 3 months")

Posted by: Mina | May 19 2017 11:31 utc | 25

where is there any 'payoff' at all to the us for this whole brutal, vicious operation?

what can possibly be gained by it? i don't see anything at all.

all i can see is what is being lost by absolutely everyone.

how can 300 million people allow themselves to robbed and used like this by a tiny minority of liars, murderers, and thieves? and the syrians ... there are debts in this world that can never be repaid, and the ruling class in the usa is just piling them on. debts in blood that can never, ever be repaid.

Posted by: jfl | May 19 2017 11:39 utc | 26

I am wondering if this event could not become part of a legitimate consideration of impeachable offenses. I laud for featuring a prominent article this morning containing the following information:

"For the second time in as many months, the U.S. military has conducted airstrikes against pro-Assad forces in Syria," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). "The Trump Administration does not have congressional authorization to carry out military strikes against the Assad regime..."

The article goes on to enlarge the indictment to include the illegitimate presence of the US in Syria as often pointed out by commenters here, and as was a factor in the election of Trump to the presidency, (and therefore also of Pence as Vice President).

Let's create a new precedent (different from but not excluding the term 'president') and have a Brit style snap election -

I'm voting for Congressman Lieu!

Posted by: juliania | May 19 2017 12:02 utc | 27

Some people like @terril 10 can't wait to see WW3 unleashed, it seems.
I'm not too keen on that, and I think neither are Putin and Lavrov.

We can be absolutely sure that Russia et al will react, but not the blunt & brutal way. Their victimhood gives them the moral high ground, and since the US/ coalition attack was obviously illegal, they can now improve air defences, threaten retaliation in the case of a repeat and reinforce their stand in the area.

Strategically, the attack may prove a major advantage for Damascus, just as the Hasakah incident was a tactical defeat, but a strategic gain. So let's not jump to conclusions too quickly, and wait till the dust has settled.

Posted by: smuks | May 19 2017 12:08 utc | 28

I find it so depressing to read the comments sections in MSM articles on this latest bit o' USA! USA! USA! lawlessness.

None of the comments show even the slightest sign of registering the fact that US forces are inside Syrian territory and, as such, it is the Syrian army that is reacting defensively by marching towards those interlopers.

al-Tanaf is on the border between Syria, Iraq and Jordan.
It is inside Syrian territory.

Nobody disputes either fact.

Then this is also indisputable: the only legal response that US forces inside al-Tanaf can take on the approach of Syrian forces is to pick up their packs and take a few steps over the border into Jordan.

Or into Iraq. Whichever takes their fancy, I don't really care either way.

But if they insist on staying where they are then THEY are the aggressors, and any air strikes they call in is an act of aggression AGAINST the SAA and its allies. Such air strikes are not in any way, shape or form a "defensive" act.

After all, whose f**cking country is it?

Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 19 2017 12:27 utc | 29

Another US airstrike targets pro-government forces near Syrian crossing: video

The U.S. Coalition carried out another airstrike against a group of pro-government Iraqi paramilitary fighters near the Syrian border-crossing, Iraq’s Afaq TV reported yesterday.

The report added that at least one Sayyed Al-Shuhada fighter was killed and another six were badly injured by the U.S. attack near Albukamal.

The Sayyed Al-Shuhada Regiment is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd Al-Sha’abi); they have participated in several offensives that have been backed by the U.S. military.

This attack was under reported because of the large strike by the U.S. Coalition on a Syrian military convoy near the Tanf Border-Crossing in southeast Homs.

so was it a us plane or a 'coalition' plane. they used the danes the first time, at deir ezor, didn't they? and the brits, was it? people say they're using the jordanians this time. anyone know?

Posted by: jfl | May 19 2017 12:30 utc | 31

There is absolutely no reason to assume that Russia will back down. What will the US do if Russia starts shooting down these US planes?

Think the Russians are going to let the US creep through Syria into Iran, and then into Russia?

Posted by: blues | May 19 2017 12:32 utc | 32

@28 smuks

one would think that there'd be a call for a unsc meeting on this right away, wouldn't you? i think terril was encouraging the syrians and iraqis to meet this invasion together. they are perfectly in the right to do so. the russians need to make sure that the syrians have the means to protect themselves. the us/nato must be opposed in their invasion of syria. the us is the one trying to start ww iii, not the people trying to defend themselves from us aggression. or was it the poles who started ww ii?

Posted by: jfl | May 19 2017 12:35 utc | 33

Nice piece.

I do have the idea that Al Tanaf is of little strategic importance to Russia and that's why it's keeping quite (except for a condemnation by the defence ministry). Still it should be brought to UNSC (where everybody knows it will be bouced by FUKUS (and demonstrate once more FUKUS' moral deficit)).

Posted by: xor | May 19 2017 12:48 utc | 34

Yep, it's either play the hand you're dealt and be thwarted by the emerging multi-polar world, or turn the whole table over because, Damn the consequences, "We are true believers!" I pegged Hillary as being in the latter camp. I pegged Donald as a grifter who enjoys the epicurean pleasures too much (be real: could Hillary even enjoy anything sensually other than the thrill of murderous conquest?).

Thanks b for laying it out for us. They will stall the outcome, for sure, but these are the only choices.

Posted by: NemesisCalling | May 19 2017 13:10 utc | 35

jfl @20 "there must be a war crimes tribunal for the us at the end of all this. it cannot be allowed to just walk away from crimes of this magnitude."

Who will hold the tribunal? As Paul Craig Roberts says, Washington is Sauron, and Saurin rules his minions in the West. Unless a real revolution takes place, the only way that such a judgement can come will be via a host of Russian or Chinese ICBMs/SLBMs

Posted by: Perimtr | May 19 2017 14:05 utc | 36

Whoever is in charge (in reality) of the U.S. military is setting policy in Syria. Who knows what the motivation is at this point except more war equals more funding. As for legality of the strike, let's be clear here, the U.S. does not accept international law and therefore there is no international law--that era is over. What we have in Syria is a strategy of tension. No side will back down, no side can negotiate because, fundamentally, the U.S. has no interest in negotiation as far as I can see. It wants continued war forever wherever it can find war. The current ruling class cannot stand without permanent war and thus the U.S. cannot afford to allow peace in the region or anywhere for that matter.

Posted by: Banger | May 19 2017 14:21 utc | 37

@jfl 33
From a legal point of view, you're perfectly right, as is terril.

But (intl.) politics isn't as sober and neutral, I'm afraid. What would happen if the Syrian govt. was given enough air defence systems and shot down those planes, or if Russia did it? Who would win the upper hand in DC, those urging restraint & negotiations or those saying 'To hell with UN & rules, they attacked our guys so we'll teach them a lesson!'?

International law is a good thing for sure, but it's important to know its limits and act accordingly.
As Carl Schmitt said, 'the sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception' - at the global level, great powers decide themselves whether or not they honour international law. There's some incentive for them to do so most of the time, but once a conflict touches on their core interests...

My first (or second) thought was that Moscow would call for a UNSC emergency meeting.
But maybe it wouldn't help much or even do more harm than good, since there obviously wouldn't be any resolution. This would make the attack appear 'somewhat legal', whereas as things stand it's seen as a pure and blatantly open aggression...

The US was forced to publicly admit the presence of SF at al-Tanf.
Damascus and Moscow will call for their withdrawal, which they very probably won't. For the moment this doesn't change anything, but the obvious illegality of the invasion will further reduce the US military's room for manoeuvre, so their presence inside Syria will be of little use, just as their military overweight in the region is of little use.

Let's see if I'm right... Many folks (not only on MoA) make the mistake of overrating the importance of individual military actions, and not seeing their political-strategic implications. Russians do like playing chess, and sacrificing important pieces is among the most sophisticated moves...

Posted by: smuks | May 19 2017 14:39 utc | 38

From the RT article linked to by Perimter @ 9 ==

Earlier, the US-led coalition admitted striking a militia group fighting alongside Syrian government forces in southern Syria on Thursday. They said in a statement that the Syrian forces “posed a threat” to US and allied troops at Tanf base near the Syria-Iraq-Jordan border.

The incident took place as pro-government forces reportedly entered one of the recently implemented de-escalation zones in Homs province, where they allegedly clashed with the US-backed Maghawir Al-Thawra militant group (formerly known as ‘New Syrian Army’).

“We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian Army and Iranians in this point and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy,” Reuters cited a militant representative as saying.

I thought the US did not accept the de-escalation zones? So, along with their illegally just being inside Syrian borders, the US now adds to its duplicity with such hypocritial statements.

Posted by: jawbone | May 19 2017 14:49 utc | 39

Banger@37 You are right there is no International law, at least not for the five veto wielding members of the UNSC AND their friends notably [Saudi Arabia and Israel].
"Academic lawyers in their thousands may protest that taking military action against Iraq was illegal because it lacked proper authorisation by the Security Council, but it is of no consequence in the real world when there is no possibility of the UK, or its political leadership, being convicted for taking such action. It is meaningless to describe an action as illegal if there is no expectation that the perpetrator of the action will be convicted by a competent judicial body. In the real world, an action is legal unless a competent judicial body rules that it is illegal".
If the other members ganged up on the US and introduced a Resolution condemning this US aggression, the US would simply veto it, and send it down the memory hole.

Posted by: harrylaw | May 19 2017 14:58 utc | 40

Roll on the day, Perimtr (#36). I for one would gladly accept extinction of H. sapiens, secure in the knowledge that the cancerous US were finally eradicated from the map.

Posted by: Bill Person | May 19 2017 14:59 utc | 41

@28 Putin has not been 100% right all of the time on Syria. Iran had to outmaneuver them once, their non-support of an earlier Raqqa campaign created huge problems later, and now this.
I guess he can't be blamed for this one as USA basically violated international law to spring this 'trap', which also exposes a potential agenda (southern invasion), but I just wonder how things would be if he was more like USSR leaders, who, at least until Afghanistan, were far less murky about their strategic support.

Posted by: aaaa | May 19 2017 14:59 utc | 42

What does the US get of this? Pleasing its allies, in the Gulf and in the south of Syria. Embarrassing the diplomats. Claim to be the boss.

Posted by: Mina | May 19 2017 15:00 utc | 43


There seems to be a mix-up between the "deconfliction zones" and de-escalation zones, as defined in the Astana Memorandum.

The claim that the U.S. attack on Syrian forces happened in a "deconfliction zone" comes from U.S officials. See this article on Sputnik.

US Coalition Strike on Syrian Army Occurred Within Deconfliction Zone

A US defense official told Sputnik that the US-led coalition struck the pro-Syrian government forces near the town of At Tanf in the area of an established deconfliction zone with Russia.

This is not a reference to the four de-escalation zones defined in the Astana Memorandum. The "established deconfliction zone" only means that Russian and U.S. forces have agreed to not shoot at each other.

Posted by: Petri Krohn | May 19 2017 15:01 utc | 44

@42 I'll just add that I concede that international relations are probably different now as we are entering a post-unipolar stage.

Posted by: aaaa | May 19 2017 15:04 utc | 45

Re: jfl @ 31 -- and yet another US airstrike, this time on Iraqi fighters who are...considered allies of the US in its fight against ISIS, right?

Interesting that the US government and/or military think they can just kill willy-nilly, both friend and declared foe. Do they think this is going to create goodwill among Iraqis?


Also, hasn't Trump proclaimed that he essentially has left strategy and tactics to the US military commanders? How far down the chain of command does that go?

...President Donald Trump declined to say whether he personally signed off on the use of the GBU-43/B MOAB, also known as the "mother of all bombs," in a strike on ISIS militants in Afghanistan.

"Everybody knows exactly what happens. So, what I do is I authorize our military," Trump said when asked whether he authorized the strike. "We have given them total authorization and that's what they're doing.

Sources told CNN that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb. The White House was informed of the plan before the MC-130 aircraft delivered its 21,600-pound payload.

Trump has given military commanders broader latitude to act independently on several battlefields where US forces are involved, which Trump touted as making a "tremendous difference" in the fight against ISIS.

Posted by: jawbone | May 19 2017 15:10 utc | 46

After all, whose f**cking country is it?
Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 19, 2017 8:27:39 AM | 29

Yes, the US and Nato, their media hounds, and their unmistakeable brand of effortless superiority. It is as if a nation never owned the right to defend itself.

Posted by: MadMax2 | May 19 2017 15:18 utc | 47

Yeah Right @ 29 -- Seems that the State Dept.'s rather amazing claim of a crematorium and about 50 hangings a day at that prison site might be tied to this new aggressiveness, altho', again, how does attacking its own ally's fighters fit into this?

However, there seems to be a new aggressiveness in the US MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media), helpfully beating ever more loudly the drums of war. And many Americans seem to think anything is A-OK if the military force is being used "for good." Thus, the Dastardly Dictator of whatever country the US wants to invade next, etc.

Posted by: jawbone | May 19 2017 15:18 utc | 48

Posted by: smuks | May 19, 2017 10:39:22 AM | 38

The US will find it difficult to decide on ">whom to bomb.

It seems that the assembly wants to erect bodies in support of the Syrian Regime in the province because both parties’ interests overlap, with both being supported by Tehran. The leader in the Assembly and the head of “Badr Organization”, Hadi Al-Amiri, insisted on this by saying that “the Syrian Government, headed by Bashar Al-Assad, invited the leaders of the Assembly to enter Syria after the emancipation of Iraq”.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, issued early last March orders to his forces to attack ISIS camps within Syria He announced: “we ordered the air forces to attack the terrorist sites of ISIS in Husaibah and Al Bukamal inside the Syrian territory, which were responsible for the recent bombings in Baghdad”.

Deir ez-Zor is considered as a major strategic asset, for the one who dominates it shall hold the key to the eastern region of Syria and supplement his capital with huge oil reserves and establishes checkpoints on the road from Tehran to Damascus.

This Daily Telegraph article from before the airstrike Syrian troops advancing towards US and British special forces

The US has sent a clear message that any government advance towards their base will not be accepted. However, it is unclear how the special forces will react to any serious provocation.

Russia bombed the garrison in June 2016, however no injures were reported. US jets were scrambled in response, but failed to stop the aerial raid.

The Telegraph article is interesting for a lot of reasons - it calls Syria and Iraq "allies" which is a new development.

Posted by: somebody | May 19 2017 15:19 utc | 49

The US is like a sociopath. It behaves badly and opportunistically when it can. The leadership of Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah know this. B wrote this in his last analysis too.

Those troops should have been accompanied by air defenses and support. Why was there none? Perhaps they were probing to see the US reaction. Perhaps this was a message from the R+3 . A US claim of self defense is an even bigger joke now if they come under attack in Syria.

I suspect the Russians will simply provide air defenses and air support next time. I look forward to Syrian gov control of Al Tanf.

Posted by: Alaric | May 19 2017 15:21 utc | 50

SAA isn't stopping its advance and has Truth on its side, although I now expect the commanders of the advance to be more prudent when it comes to its AAA deployment. IMO, the Outlaw US Empire will pull a Turkey and use artillery deployed in Jordan to support its terrorists across the border in Syria--"State Terrorism" as proclaimed by Syria's Jaafari,

Sputnik has compiled all its stories on this crime under one url,

The latest cites Lavrov saying it's unclear if the deconfliction protocol was followed by Outlaw US Empire since it cited a deconfliction zone in its official lies about the crime.

Posted by: karlof1 | May 19 2017 15:29 utc | 51


Syrian President Assad, Iraqi security advisor discuss 'direct' military cooperation

President Assad and Fayadh discussed “practical and operational steps for military cooperation between the two armies on both sides of the border,” in light of the advances made by the Iraqi forces in Mosul.

President Assad was also quoted as saying that the progress made by both countries militarily is an “important” step towards returning “security and stability” to the region, adding that they have a common war and enemy that seeks to “divide the states of the region” through what he called terrorist groups.

The two countries, along with Russia and Iran, share what has been called Baghdad Operation Room where they share intelligence in between them.

Posted by: somebody | May 19 2017 15:32 utc | 52

@46 jawbone
The past years, US has attacked Iraqi troops and para military on a regular basis whenever they were taking actions the US didn't like. For example when they were heading to Ramadi to liberate it, the US simply bombed and killed a couple of dozen para military as only some supposedly 'sunni-fighers' were allowed to participate. It has also regularly dropped supplies to Daesh. These supposed 'accidents' are well known facts for what they are in Iraq. Time will tell when they will stop sucking it up.

Posted by: xor | May 19 2017 15:34 utc | 53

A UNSCR is International Law

The Security Council determined today that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) constituted an “unprecedented” threat to international peace and security, calling upon Member States with the requisite capacity to take “all necessary measures” to prevent and suppress its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2249 (2015), the Council unequivocally condemned the terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIL — also known as Da’esh — on 26 June in Sousse, on 10 October in Ankara, on 31 October over the Sinaï Peninsula, on 12 November in Beirut and on 13 November in Paris, among others. It expressed its deepest condolences to the victims and their families, as well as to the people and Governments of Tunisia, Turkey, Russian Federation, Lebanon and France.

Posted by: From The Hague | May 19 2017 15:37 utc | 54

>>>> Cousin Jack | May 19, 2017 8:29:09 AM | 30

Fisk's take on this:

Does Iran really need a land route to Syria? It can send material by ship avoiding the Suez Canal and nobody can legally stop it. The Straits of Gibraltar are covered by UNCLOS so civilian ships can't be touched and military ships have the right of innocent passage regardless of what they're carrying. Given how obsessed the United States is with freedom of navigation elsewhere, they can hardly support the Moroccans or Spanish intercepting any Iranian military ships passing through the Straits although that doesn't mean they won't try to come up with some feeble excuse to justify it, but I'm sure PLAN would give the Iranians a helping hand.

This is more about stopping the New Syrian Army getting anywhere near Deir Ez-zor and attacking the SAA. If the NSA does attack the SAA are their US/UK advisers going to want to be involved?

As for Al Tanf itself, what is to stop the Russians/Syrians/Iraqis/Iranians driving a new road across the desert from south west of Palmyra across the border into Iraq once they've secured the territory? A 180 km dirt road is all that would be needed for the summer and working from both ends it could be complete in a couple of weeks and it could be all-weather before winter.

Posted by: Ghostship | May 19 2017 15:45 utc | 55

Re: Addendum

This is the prime source (sic!) of the twitted map: Israeli-based political risk consultancy...

Move on, nothing to see here except for a few Likudniks.

Posted by: LXV | May 19 2017 15:45 utc | 56

Excellent article, b. World-class commentary. It captures the situation perfectly.

Did Russia try to halt the SAA to try to prevent the US aggression? Apparently this news only comes from the US, according to the Sputnik story karlof1 linked @51. Perhaps, perhaps not. One story today at Fort Russ declares "No Such Thing as Russia Halting our Progress": Syria Slams False US Accusations, Confirms new Anti-ISIS Coordination Agreement with Russia and Iran CAVEAT: this only comes from a "Syrian security source", it's not a formal Syria announcement.

One would have to be much closer to the chains of command (and to understand these things, which I don't), but it's an interesting question here of who blinked in this game of chicken? Did Russia counsel a small sidestep, and Syrian command not get the memo in time? Or was it a face-off all the way to the air attack? And will the response from Russia be direct or asymmetrical? I half-expect US assets to be killed on the ground one day pretty soon, without using air strikes to do it. Just the quiet over-running of an illegal presence here or there. This is the kind of message the US understands, and doesn't have to acknowledge publicly.

Trump gave his generals free rein to act as they will. Enough rope to hang themselves? We've been waiting for the inevitable charge into a quagmire somewhere. Maybe it happens here.

Posted by: Grieved | May 19 2017 16:09 utc | 57

Some day maybe, we'll all be able to clearly see if the Empire and Russia are playing " Good Cop, Bad Cop" as political strategy, and behind the scenes their Oligarchs are forming an alliance. If the Russians truly want a Multi-polar world, and not just a understanding between Oligarchs, they'll have to confront the Empire's aggressions.

We'll see...

Posted by: ben | May 19 2017 16:10 utc | 58

I think the Russian strategy for dealing with the US in Syria is similar to Muhammad Ali when he fought George Foreman in 'the rumble in the jungle'. In that fight, Ali constantly leaned on him, tiring him while he allowed Foreman to exhaust himself by absorbing his attacks and being very defensive. In the end there won't be a 'knockout' in Syria, the US is simply going to get pushed out of the ring and be forced to pack up and go home.

In my mind this is the approach Russia has taken vs the US:
-Keep up the diplomatic pressure
-Keep building momentum throughout the country
-Peel away US allies and proxies
-Pursue stalemate in some areas while concentrating your forces elsewhere, then repeat

To everyone that screams for the Russians to shoot down US planes, etc. etc. You have to realize the minute the Russians do that they will face a full court press from the US media for direct confrontation and war. Trump will be called a coward and a pawn and he'll end up being forced to start attacking Russian assets in Syria.

The way to look at it is 'Russian efforts are restraining the US from its desired course of action' (Libya style intervention). Instead the US is stuck trying to goad the Russians into giving them a pretext to intervene on a large scale. The Russians/Iranians/Syrians just need to keep going, take the occasional 'provocation' attempt by the US and turn the other cheek. Eventually like 'b' says, the US will simply have to leave.

Posted by: WG | May 19 2017 16:14 utc | 59

re smuks @38
You say (I agree) that international law is meaningless given that the US considers itself to be above it. So I am a bit confused when you say "the obvious illegality of the invasion will further reduce the US military's room for manoeuvre". If the US cares nothing for illegalities, why would it be hindered by them? Not trying to pick a fight, just find this inconsistent.

re Petri Krohn's observation at 44
Lately I have begun to wonder about Sputnik, if it has been co-opted by Atlanticists? There seems to be an increasing number of stories being run that don't seem to serve Russian interests. The "confusion" noted by Petri may be deliberate, as this narrative muddies the waters in favor of the US.

Posted by: Perimtr | May 19 2017 16:19 utc | 60

RT has switched to openly condemning Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: somebody | May 19 2017 16:21 utc | 61

@54: It is not. A SCR might try to interpret IL, but it does not create it. That's the job of the permanent IL commission of the UN.

Posted by: Gesine Hammerling | May 19 2017 16:26 utc | 62

Quid pro quo. Signaling in anticipation of Saudi arms deal.

Posted by: Les | May 19 2017 16:30 utc | 63

thanks b.. excellent overview. i am going to have to send some more money to you.

the usa doesn't have a leg to stand on, but as @37 banger points out - but it doesn't matter.. they aren't concerned with international law, or what the un says thanks their veto.. they will continue to do what they do. i also agree with @26/38 smuks.. @10 terril (a new poster) appears clueless..

ditto madmax@47..

@60 somebody.. interesting...

usa - supporting israel and saudi arabia - the one bastion of democracy in the middle east, and the wahabbist headchopping cult.. that is a lot to swallow - don't worry.. i can't either, lol.. usa is one sick puppy, but most everyone here already knew that..

Posted by: james | May 19 2017 16:39 utc | 64


That's actually a somewhat funny thing about this war: Who's allied with whom depends on which side of the border we're talking about. Shortly after the Russian air force got involved, there was a US-Russia meeting in which they basically agreed on zones of influence, with Russia keeping out of Iraq.

So while the USAF (reluctantly) supports the ISF in its campaign against ISIS, at the same time it's an open secret(?) that both Baghdad and Damascus are allied with Tehran. I didn't know that the PMU is already inside Syria, but it makes perfect sense - and (unlike in Iraq) they're certainly not on the coalition's side there...


So you're saying the whole Syrian war is much ado about nothing?
Having a land connection is of paramount strategic importance. There's no such thing as 'freedom of navigation' for other states in waters controlled by the USN (or the PLAN, or the Russian navy for that matter), at least not when it really counts. Building another road takes time, and its border crossing would be blocked just the same.

Posted by: smuks | May 19 2017 16:51 utc | 65

Wg @ 59: Good take, hope your scenario plays out..

Also stated:"Eventually like 'b' says, the US will simply have to leave."

On the other hand, maybe Russia will simply leave. The Empire has the financial resources to stay there forever, if it chooses to. Does Russia?

IMO, the only thing that keeps the Empire going, is it's ability, being the reserve currency of the world, to make an unlimited pile of dollars whenever it chooses to.

No other nation in the world can do that.

Posted by: ben | May 19 2017 16:53 utc | 66

Here's the thing.

US has struck twice with total impunity in the current stage of the crisis, once here and once with the tommyhawks. Russia doesn't seem to be shooting back. They can bang their shoes all day at the UN or make these grandiose proclamations about US war crimes, but they're starting to look like puppies keeping their powder dry.

Much as we'd like the Russkies or anyone for that matter to get the US out of the AO, circumstances in the US are such that events will probably overcome the POTUS and he will be neutered of not totally neutralized. Comey was the bait.

Or the deep inner meaning of all this is that Putin and Trump are in on the joke. They are the joke. Deep state has them surrounded. What a stupid time to go to Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: stumpy | May 19 2017 16:55 utc | 67

Yes, by interpreting UNSCR 2249 the US led coalition could claim they acted according to International Law.
That's the reason they said that their goal of bombing pro-Syrian regime forces was: to aid the fight against ISIS.

Posted by: From The Hague | May 19 2017 17:15 utc | 68

@Perimetr 60 (lost an e?)

I'm absolutely not saying that international law is meaningless, just that it has limits.
If a great power (and esp. the US) violates it, there will not be any direct consequences, *but* the rest of the world will still see the act for what it is. If this happens regularly, the great power will find it ever harder to find allies on the global scene, and instead will provoke the formation of (formal or informal) coalitions among its opponents. No country is an island - all the aircraft carriers in the world don't mean much if you can't use them for lack of political support.

The prime example for this is the 2003 Iraq war: The US & UK govts thought that they could act with impunity. They may have been right in the short run, but in the longer run this blatant violation of the most fundamental intl. law was their downfall. Talk about a leader losing all his followers.

@WG 59, ben 66
Nice comparison! And pretty much how I see it too.
ben - no reserve currency lasts forever, and this on is on the way out.

Posted by: smuks | May 19 2017 17:19 utc | 69

Ghostship@55 "As for Al Tanf itself, what is to stop the Russians/Syrians/Iraqis/Iranians driving a new road across the desert from south west of Palmyra across the border into Iraq once they've secured the territory? A 180 km dirt road is all that would be needed for the summer and working from both ends it could be complete in a couple of weeks and it could be all-weather before winter". That's a good idea, also
With a gas pipe line running undeneath it from Iran's field to the Med. Hej.

Posted by: harrylaw | May 19 2017 17:42 utc | 70

/they said that their goal of bombing pro-Syrian regime forces was: to aid the fight against ISIS/
that is why all the planet knows how US regularly dropped supplies to ISIS...

Posted by: ALAN | May 19 2017 17:58 utc | 71

Sputnik now has a story sourced by local Syrians detailing the nature of the attack. The enemy jet did take AAA and apparently S-200s were also launched. Please go to link for the play-by-play,

Southfront has an article complete with maps saying the Outlaw US Empire has created its own deconfliction zone--b, you'll want to borrow the de-escalation zone map and post it as an update,

Posted by: karlof1 | May 19 2017 18:00 utc | 72

>>> Alaric | May 19, 2017 11:21:25 AM | 50

Those troops should have been accompanied by air defenses and support.

Why? Does ISIS have an air force beyond a few quadricopter drones? The Syrians are better off without air defences because if they were ever tempted to use them and shot down an American aircraft the response would be swift and catastrophic for the Syrian forces involved, if not the Syrian state. Far better to accept the casualties as the cost of doing business and get on with the task in hand of defeating ISIS, Al Qaeda and other jihadists and preserving the Syrian state which would be the ultimate finger in the eye for the Americans. Every time a state as powerful as the United States attacks a weak state, it loses automatically in the battle for public perception, and because Putin is not going to give up on Syria the United States has lost the war for regime change already but Washington is too stupid to realise that because they only deal with the elites in certain states, the ones that have attacked the United States and its interests more than the Syrians ever have. How stupid is that?

Posted by: Ghostship | May 19 2017 18:19 utc | 73

When the NSA 'New-Syrian-Army' falls apart, might I suggest that the Americans name the next puppet army they try to set up 'The Completely Independent Army'... The CIA

Posted by: Køn | May 19 2017 18:29 utc | 74

73 the United States has lost the war for regime change already

The United States war industry is still winning the war for power and profits.

Posted by: From The Hague | May 19 2017 18:30 utc | 75

Funny with all this attention on al Tanf that nobody is pointing out the BS maps being circulated about. One of the major supply lines for ISIS (not FSA) is from Jordan, along the Syrian border just south of at Tanf and continuing up to al Bukamal and Deir EzZor.

Here's a U.S. Coalition fantasy map (wishful thinking) of the situation. It shows the FSA holding everything next to the border almost up to the al Qaim border crossing - where the Euphrates crosses into Iraq. Truth is that the U.S. and their tiny FSA contingent are not present at all near the border there. It's sort of a no-man's land. They probably won't get attacked if they drive along the border, but neither will ISIS (or Jordanian supply convoys TO ISIS in al Bukamal and Deir EzZor. The U.S. and U.K. SOF presence in al Tanf is to protect that ISIS supply corridor. They don't 'fight' ISIS - they never have. There were a few fake reports of battles, but most involved transferring a huge amount of ammo and supplies to ISIS.

The U.S. and U,K. SOF and FSA are protecting the ISIS supply corridor from Jordan, nothing eles. For obvious political reasons, they don't want to cross very far into Iraq to do this, so they can't just move the corridor across the southern border and move eastward that way.

You can get a better idea of what I'm talking about if you look at more realistic (non-US-propaganda) maps of the area. This one linked shows ISIS controlling all the southeastern border to al Bukamal/Euphrates. Again, not completely accurate because it's more of a no-man's land. You can bet that the U.S. has constant surveillance on this area though and knows exactly when the ISIS supply convoys from Jordan are moving through that area. Now, ever hear of the U.S. bombing ANYTHING there? Of course not. Almost without exception, CJTF-OIR has ONLY been bombing oil infrastructure around Deir EzZor and al Bukamal. They have NEVER hit an ISIS supply convoy.

The Russians, Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians know the US/UK forces are protecting that supply corridor. They know the US is reluctant to use Iraq (as much as possible) for those convoys. If the SAA wants to take Deir EzZor and al Bukamal, then it has to cut the ISIS supply lines along the southeast border from al Tanf to al Bukamal. The PMUs will be cleaning house along the Euphrates right up to al Qaim/al Bukamal, so there will be no chance for a supply from that side. The US/UK knows this and was planning on a move on al Bukamal from al Tanf out of desperation. The SAA saw the build-up and decided to close down that op AND the ISIS supply corridor once and for all before moving to Deir EzZor.

Like I said before, the U.S. are sore losers. CJTF-OIR doesn't like anyone messing with their ISIS supply corridors or their US/UK ISIS corridor 'guards'. They are running out of options, which makes them very dangerous. They can't very well bomb the SAA in Deir EzZor again. They've run out of fake ISIS to attack the fast-moving SAA forces heading to Deir EzZor. And they don't have much international sympathy for their al Tanf occupation. Sarin false flags won't work down there. There's a huge refugee camp near there that the US/UK use to recruit and house jihadis, so they might use some kind of fake SAA attack on that to justify military action.

The original plan of mounting an al Bukamal campaign from al Tanf isn't going to work since they can't leave al Tanf with just a few guards - they would lose it to the SAA. They are going to lose the ISIS supply corridor unless they do something drastic, so expect the worse. And rememeber: the ISIS supply corridor is really just a placeholder for the future FSA supply corridor to the Euphrates. Only other option is to have the SDF ignore Raqqa and try to take Deir EzZor/al Bukamal from the north and supply them from Kurd territory.

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 19 2017 18:48 utc | 76

>>>> smuks | May 19, 2017 12:51:50 PM | 65

So you're saying the whole Syrian war is much ado about nothing?

Where do I say that?
Having a land connection is of paramount strategic importance.

Why? A land connection requires protection from everybody, even the lowest terrorist, particularly when it's so exposed crossing a desert. Just look how often ISIS block the land connection into Aleppo. It doesn't do them much good because the SAA/SAAF/RuAF are fairly proficient at cleaning them out and killing them now. The USAF could close a land connection without even raising a sweat and combined with the US Army they could put in road blocks that nobody could remove without going for full on war.
There's no such thing as 'freedom of navigation' for other states in waters controlled by the USN (or the PLAN, or the Russian navy for that matter), at least not when it really counts.

Once the USN oppose FON, any attempts at enforing it elsewhere are compromised. The USN could announce it's going to blockade Syria but that is an act of war that I reckon the Russians would oppose. The Russian should be to run a convoy through the blockade and see if the USN have the guts to sink the defending ships. I doubt it.
Building another road takes time, and its border crossing would be blocked just the same.

Are you a trained highway engineer? Well I was and building a multi-lane highway with multi-level interchanges, etc. does take time. A two-lane haul road, which is what I was thinking about over that distance in a desert working from both ends would take a couple of weeks at most. How could its border crossing be blocked since the SAA would control one side and the Iraqi army the other and unless they fall out(unlikely) there would be no reason for the border to close.

Posted by: Ghostship | May 19 2017 18:58 utc | 77

@59 wg.. agree strongly with you. missed your comment when i posted earlier..

@67 stumpy.. you forgot to mention the usa taking out 60-100 syrian army personal in diez ezzor as well.. either way, i agree with wg's take here..

@71 alan.. pretty much, although the western msm will be the last to mention that..

@76 paveway.. thanks for your insights... i accept your comment "They are going to lose the ISIS supply corridor unless they do something drastic, so expect the worse." yeah, what next from these assholes?

Posted by: james | May 19 2017 19:04 utc | 78

@44 I'm thinking this recent attack had a lot to do with the de-escalation/deconfliction zones. The US got sidelined at Astana. The attack at al-Tanaf could be the US saying...'you want deconfliction?....try that for size.'

It's probably a one off though. US/UK special forces are starting to look very exposed.

Posted by: dh | May 19 2017 19:35 utc | 79

@44 I'm thinking this recent attack had a lot to do with the de-escalation/deconfliction zones. The US got sidelined at Astana. The attack at al-Tanaf could be the US saying...'you want deconfliction?....try that for size.'

It's probably a one off though. US/UK special forces are starting to look very exposed.

Posted by: dh | May 19 2017 19:37 utc | 80

the United States, with the help of Jordan and Turkey, was running a training base for Syrian rebels in Jordan.

Posted by: ALAN | May 19 2017 20:16 utc | 81

There is nothing at Al-Tanf except desert and the Damarcus Baghdad Road and the borders of Syria, Jordon and Iraq nearby. The probe is an attempt to reopen a Shiite landline. At the behest of Israel and the Gulf Monarchies, the Empire set up the forward operating base at Al-Tanf to keep the road cut and bombed the militias as a warning to halt. An Abrahamic regional Holy War is the most apt description of the blood flowing onto concrete and sand there. An Apocalypse is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A guarantee with an Empire that learns nothing and remembers everything.

Posted by: VietnamVet | May 19 2017 20:22 utc | 82

CNN's article included this:
"The strike marks the first time that the Pentagon has offered aerial protection to its Arab proxies under assault from pro-Syrian militias -- and only the second time in the history of the six-year conflict that American warplanes have intentionally targeted Iranian proxies in Syria."

Arab proxies? Not Syrian? Not "opposition" fighters?

But then they add this:
"The convoy appears to have consisted not of regular Syrian army soldiers but of international Shia militiamen."

And later in the article, CNN repeats claims that the CIA is training "vetted" Syrian rebels.

And our MSM is okay with this proxy-on-proxy fight that is destroying Syria.

Posted by: Curtis | May 19 2017 20:56 utc | 83

Poor Russia! The US is exposing Russia's vaunted AA systems as trash. Those dogs don't hunt, almost certainly can't hunt. Might as well roll out an s-600 system, Putin my lad. Make some fancy claims for it. Can shoot down UFOs!

When all you've got is PR, roll that out to the max.

Really though, the ongoing embarrassment of Israeli and US air impunity in Syria is going to hurt Russia's weapons biz. If Russia's best weapon systems are trash, is there anything they offer that isn't trash, other than AKs, which one can get anywhere ...?

Posted by: paul | May 19 2017 21:36 utc | 84

@84.. paul, you've been saying that for a few years.. a stopped clock is occasionally right, lol...

Posted by: james | May 19 2017 21:46 utc | 85

Please don't feed the troll who's trying to destroy an interesting thread. Thanks.


The war is all about who controls eastern Syria and thus establishes a strategic axis, either West-East or North-South. If you say that doesn't matter, the war makes no sense whatsoever.

You probably know more about road construction than I do, but very little about geostrategy it seems. Whoever controls a transport corridor holds a knife to the (economic) throat of those who depend on it. It's a prime strategic asset.
The USN controls most sea lanes - for now; or what do you think the entire South China Sea issue is about? The Eurasian land routes on the other hand are mostly controlled by Russia and China through their armies, air force and AD. Sure, they can still be bombed, but that's only temporary and comes at a huge political cost. And here we also have the deeper reason for China's 'New Silk Road'.

It's the old story of 'sea power vs. land power' which repeats itself throughout history, e.g. Athens/ Sparta.

Posted by: smuks | May 19 2017 21:55 utc | 86

@Paveway 76

Actually the two maps aren't that different imho, since as you say it's mostly empty desert anyway so 'zone of control' is rather relative. But I get your point: It's all about securing the ISIS supply line from Jordan. I remember a 'New Syrian Army' attack on al-Bukamal some while back, which looked very much like a resupply op, same with the RuAF bombing of an SF base in the region.
Actually at times I've been sitting looking at maps, thinking how nice it would be to have real-time satellite or drone pictures and see the trucks heading north...

Now that the (illegal) presence of SF in al-Tanf has been exposed, can they still remain there, or do they have to leave? This war is strange: All warring parties know what's going on on the ground, but it doesn't really matter - what's important is only what is or isn't on the worldwide news.

Posted by: smuks | May 19 2017 22:10 utc | 87

Syria: Syrian forces seen in al-Tanf outskirts day after US airstrike

Posted by: sandra_m | May 19 2017 22:53 utc | 88

The advance toward al-Tanf continues. Southfront has a new article detailing SAA within 20K with aircover from RuAF Su-30s. Also provided are some unconfirmed he-said/she-said that seem semi-plausible,

After everything the Outlaw US Empire has done over the past 6 years--and over several decades prior--to Syria and its people--actions very close to Genocidal in nature--I very much doubt SAA will relent. And it appears Iraqi politicos have grown another backbone and are as resolved as their Syrian and Iranian neighbors to defeat the US/NATO/Zionist/GCC terrorists, force them to retreat from the region, thus regaining 100% sovereignty, while putting further pressure for a solution for Palestine.

As pointed out by PavewayIV @76, the Empire has zero positive options other than complete withdrawal, which it doesn't view as positive either. It would seem the Neocons are being chocked by Trump's vow to destroy their terrorist creations. King PlayStation better watch out or he'll risk losing his kingdom.

Posted by: karlof1 | May 19 2017 23:03 utc | 89

Posted by: Curtis | May 19, 2017 4:56:27 PM | 83

There is more depravity. Mattis seems to have given an interview saying they plan to "annihilate" ISIS fighters to stop them from returning to their countries.

The Geneva convention has lost any meaning.

Posted by: somebody | May 19 2017 23:31 utc | 90

@76 pw, '... the U.S. are sore losers ...'

yeah. at home and abroad ... a coup is shaping up at home, apparently. at least the foghorns at the nytimes are sounding one out ... not the 'good guys' you had in mind ...

Kristof notes approvingly that during the 1974 Watergate crisis, President Richard Nixon’s defense secretary, James Schlesinger, ordered the military not to obey orders from the White House unless he signed off on them. Schlesinger also, in the words of Kristof, “prepared secret plans to deploy troops in Washington in the event of problems with the presidential succession.”

Kristof concludes, “This was unconstitutional. And wise.” He declares that similar “unconstitutional” acts of insubordination by military officials may be justified in the present crisis. “We don’t know how Trump will respond in the coming months, and let’s all hope for smooth sailing. But as with Schlesinger’s steps, it’s wise to be prepared,” he writes.

thanks for the background. very informative. more people need to understand the DIRECT support of the usa for isis in deir ezor. i know i didn't.

Posted by: jfl | May 20 2017 0:27 utc | 91

@b - just see your addendum, and as expressed before have strong doubts.
I don't know how supplies reached Hezbollah in 2006, probably small quantities did pass through occupied Iraq. But there's a huge strategic difference between such 'ant trails' and a fully secured (land) trade route.

Historically, the region (upper Mesopotamia) has always been valuable and contested, as this is where the roads running from west to east cross those running from north to south. It is the heartland of the Middle East, so to say.

Of course there's ships and planes, but they are easily spotted and intercepted, and carry high costs. A 'land bridge' is cheap and secure, and therefore a huge strategic advantage & instrument of power/ hegemony.

Posted by: smuks | May 20 2017 0:37 utc | 92

@84 Paul, the time to call out an AA system as "trash" is when it is fired and... misses.

Like when the Syrians fired S-200s at some Israeli jets and... missed. Obvious trash.

It is pointless calling out an AA system as "trash" merely because the operator refuses to fire the missile. There are, after all, many very good reasons why you don't want to fire your best weapon, and not just "it doesn't work".

After all, the USA doesn't use its nukes. Neither does Russia, nor China, nor France, Britain, India, Israel, Pakistan or North Korea.

I suppose, by Peter-logic, that must mean those nukes are "trash". PR-nonsense, and no threat to anyone.

That must be true, because it is a demonstrable fact that since the end of WW2 nobody has used a nuke no matter how destructive they are purported to be...

Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 20 2017 0:44 utc | 93

i guess the usa has an idiot for defense secretary.. that or a very bad liar.. if someone murders mattis, it can be claimed it's self defense.. sorta like a variant on peter-logic..

"Defense Secretary James Mattis described the targeted fighters as Iran-backed, rather than backed by the Syrian government, and called the airstrike “self-defense of our forces.”

Posted by: james | May 20 2017 0:54 utc | 94

smuks@87 "...same with the RuAF bombing of an SF base in the region." That SF base was, in fact, (one of) the al Tanf SOF training bases for the rebranded FSA in those parts: the New Syrian Army(NSyA). Russia was pissed about the apparent support/supply lines to ISIS and previous NSyA 'visits' to the Euphrates, so bombed the al Tanf base when they knew the Americans and Brits were off somewhere else. There are several bases/camps used in the general vicinity of the al Tanf border crossing. There is no functional or occupied town of al Tanf - it was more like a farm when it existed, and is just ruins now.

Most of the original New Syrian Army actually disbanded last year because CIA support sucked. The current invocation of the NSyA is a U.S. CIA/Saudi-created merc army. Mostly ex-FSA Syrian and Arab mercs and assorted Palestinian refugees (recruited from the nearby Jordanian camp) looking for paying work. They call themselves the Revolutionary Commando Army, but nobody else does. They're just 'the CIA mercs' to everyone else - cannon fodder for the scheduled replacement of ISIS in al Bukamal and Deir EzZor (if the U.S. can pull it off).

Most 'members' are trained and stay in Jordan, not Syria. The forward base in al Tanf gets busy whenever they need to show how 'the rebels' are in control down there. The actual al Tanf border crossing is several km away - mostly manned by U.S./U.K and Mossad spooks. Probably a handful of NSyA hanging around for show. The crossing is officially closed, but there has always been truck traffic going back and forth. The Iraqis have their own border crossing checkpoint a few km inside their border at al Waleed.

"...Now that the (illegal) presence of SF in al-Tanf has been exposed, can they still remain there, or do they have to leave?"

They've been there for about a year now, since the old NSyA took the border crossing and surrounding area from ISIS. The U.S./U.K. SOF have never made a secret of being in camps there to train the NSyA or whoever they are now. Keep in mind that the tiny U.S./U.K. presence is pretty much to ward off Syrian and Russian bombing, i.e., human shields for the NSyA. MOST of the SOF guys and training facilities and logistics are in Jordan and always have been. And the idea of 'legal' presence there is kind of a toss-up. The U.S. used weasel-worded U.N. resolutions to authorize them to go anywhere on earth to fight ISIS. So 'illegal' by Syrian law and global common sense sovereignty, but perfectly legal and authorized by U.S.'s made-up UN 'laws'. In any case, the SOF guys their are CIA merc trainers and have no intention of defending al Tanf with their lives. They'll leave if too many Syrians show up - Jordan is only a ten-minute drive away.

"...All warring parties know what's going on on the ground, but it doesn't really matter - what's important is only what is or isn't on the worldwide news..."

You just gave all the guys in 8th PsyOps (CENTCOM) a boner - a though which I find disturbing on several levels.

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 20 2017 0:55 utc | 95

@54 No, a UNSCR is not "international law", precisely because the UNSC is not an international legislature. International law is "law between nations", and the Security Council is not "a nation" and therefore its resolutions can not possibly be regarded as "treaties".

The ability of the Security Council to compel UN member states derives from completely outside its Resolution i.e. from Article 25 of the UN Charter (which, of course, is a treaty) "The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter."

The key word is "decisions".

If a UNSCR contains the phrase "decides that" then whatever has been decided upon is compulsory for all member states, precisely because those states committed themselves to carrying out Security Council decisions when they joined the club.

But if the resolution is "requesting" something or "urging" something, or "calling upon" something then there is no compunction and all member states can ignore it with legal impunity (though, obviously, there could be a political price to pay).

Soooooo, back to that resolution: ...."calling upon Member States with the requisite capacity to take “all necessary measures” to prevent and suppress its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq"

The weasel-words are "calling upon", which means that the resolution is a friendly request from the Security Council.

It is not an Order That Must Be Obeyed, much less is it "international law".

Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 20 2017 1:03 utc | 96

karlof1@89 "...the Empire has zero positive options other than complete withdrawal, which it doesn't view as positive either..."

The Empire is 1) run by psychopaths and 2) beholden to their Israeli and Saudi masters - 'positive' is relative.

For instance, the U.S. objective is to own the Syrian Euphrates. They can still blow the Tabqa/Euphrates dam and blame it on 'ISIS IEDs' or some such nonsense. That would pretty much clean out Raqqa, Deir EzZor and al Bukamal as well as give all the U.S. proxies an excuse to move in.

Likewise, they can use the SDF to take Deir EzZor and al Bukamal. All they have to do is secretly greenlight Turkey moving on Raqqa, which would free up (at least the Arab part of) the SDF. That would make the eventual U.S. Syrian Kurd back-stabbing seem less obvious.

Then there's always some other 'big' distraction to otherwise occupy the SAA's time. Do you think they would keep moving on Deir EzZor if, say, Israel armor crossed the Golan border steal more land on the Houran Plateau? I'm sure a suitable fake casus belli could be arranged.

Never underestimate evil.

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 20 2017 1:12 utc | 97

So the UN isn't international and a UNSCR is not an order.
And UNSCR 2249 wasn't unanimously adopted?

Posted by: From The Hague | May 20 2017 1:15 utc | 98

@98 "So the UN isn't international and a UNSCR is not an order."

One. More. Time.

The UN is a political meeting place where nations meet and engage in "diplomacy", they don't go there to engage in "lawmaking". It is not an "international legislature", and was never intended to be that.

One. More. Time.

A UNSC resolution is a political declaration by the security sub-committee of the United Nations. Such resolutions are not acts of international legislation, and were never intended to be seen in that manner.

Yes, a UNSC resolution can contain within it "an order", but Article 25 of the UN Charter spells out how such "an order" must be phrased i.e. the resolution itself must explicitly state that this is a DECISION of the council.

Anything less than the phrase "decides that" indicates that the resolution does not contain within it any "decisions of the Council" and, as a result, the resolution does not compel any member state to do anything.

I mean, get real, dude. The UN is a political organization. The Security Council is a sub-committee of that political organization that deals exclusively with the politics of international security.

As such it can - and does, and always has - produced resolutions that go from "errr, I don't think that's a good idea" up through "I think THIS is a good idea" or even "Come on, work with me, guys!" all the way up to "BANG! You're dead!".

"And UNSCR 2249 wasn't unanimously adopted?"

An irrelevance. What was unanimously adopted did not contain within it any "decisions" of the Council, and absent any such phrasing then the provision of Article 25 is not triggered.

Your all-important Resolution has no authority behind it to compel anyone to do anything, much less was it in any way, shape or form incorporated into international law by its unanimous adoption by all 12 of the council members.

I'm going to say this for the third time, though with little hope that you will finally comprehend this fact: the United Nations is a POLITICAL meeting place, it is not a legislature.

It Can Not "Make" International Law.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 20 2017 1:45 utc | 99

@99 I mean, get real, dude.

Say that to yourself.

On reality you can learn from smuks and PavewayIV:

"...All warring parties know what's going on on the ground, but it doesn't really matter - what's important is only what is or isn't on the worldwide news..."

You just gave all the guys in 8th PsyOps (CENTCOM) a boner - a though which I find disturbing on several levels.

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 19, 2017 8:55:40 PM | 95

For your information:

Psychological operations (PSYOP) are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.

Applied to that UNSCR:

The US-led coalition will no doubt claim that resolution 2249 implicitly validates or confirms the legality of their current actions.

Posted by: From The Hague | May 20 2017 2:43 utc | 100

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