Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 16, 2017

Syria Summary: The Idlib Battle Comes Into Sight

There have been few significant movements during the last weeks. The war on Syria slowly grinds towards its end. The political tussle continues as ever. U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis made a curious announcement of plans he can not fulfill.

General Situation on November 3 - bigger

Our last Syria summary looked at the situation around the last refuge area of the Islamic State near the Syrian-Iraqi border:

The twin-cities of Abu Kamal (al-Bukamal) in Syria and al-Qaim in Iraq are ISIS' last urban refuge. The cities are on the south site of the Euphrates with the important border crossing between them. Coming from the east Iraqi government troops retook the al-Qaim crossing today. They now control the border and are breaking into the city proper. Syrian government forces approach Abu Kamal from the north-west and from south-east.
The U.S. proxy forces north of the Euphrates announced that they had taken several oil-fields north of the river and were also progressing towards Abu Kamal. The Syrian government and its allies fear that the U.S. [is trying to take] Abu Kamal itself. It could then claim to have control over the border crossing towards Iraq and severe that important line of communication. A race is on to prevent that.

Situation on November 10 - Abu Kamal is at the bottom right of the map - bigger

For a few days it seemed that Syrian government forces were easily winning the race. Coming through Iraq, troops moved deep into Abu Kamal and found it empty. They prematurely declared victory but had been deceived. ISIS used tunnels to move undetected into well prepared positions and attacked them from the rear. The Syrian forces were badly mauled and had to retreat.

Since then more troops have arrived and are now ready to launch an all out attack. Coming from Russia long range bombers hit ISIS positions. The U.S. is trying to make such support more difficult by claiming an "air corridor" over the city:

Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of providing de-facto cover for Islamic State units in Syria
Specifically, the Russian Defence Ministry said the U.S. air force had tried to hinder Russian strikes on Islamic State militants around Albu Kamal.

In October, after the U.S. made a deal with ISIS fighters to evacuate Raqqa, it had escorted foreign ISIS fighters towards Abu Kamal:

He says the convoy went to the countryside of eastern Syria, not far from the border with Iraq.
From the cab of his truck, Abu Fawzi watched as a coalition warplane flew overhead, dropping illumination flares, which lit up the convoy and the road ahead.

Abu Kamal is now well defended with the most ferocious ISIS troops inside. They have nowhere to go. It will be difficult to dig them out of their positions. Meanwhile the U.S. SDF proxy forces north of the Euphrates move further towards the area.

But the whole SDF concept is in trouble. The U.S. proxy forces are led by Kurds. They need local Arabs to take the remaining areas north of the Euphrates but the Arabs do not want to fight under Kurdish command. Talal Silo, the SDF spokesperson, just defected to Turkey. With such allies any semi-permanent U.S. position in Syria is further in doubt.


East of Damascus a mix of militant groups, including Al-Qaeda, are still holding the area of East Ghouta. Last month a propaganda campaign (implausibly) claimed that people in the surrounded area were starving. On October 30 a large Red Cross convoy was dispatched from Damascus and delivered supplies to East Ghouta. Twelve days later the militants in East Ghouta launched an attack on the surrounding Syrian army positions. At the same time they fired salvos of missiles and mortars into the capital and killed several civilians there. People there are wondering how the militants managed to acquire fresh ammunition.

The aim of the terrorists (green) is to cut off and capture a Syrian army base (red) that protrudes into the area. A Syrian general was killed during their attack, the militants capture some positions (blue) and vicious fighting is ongoing. It may take a week or two to defeat these attacks and to regain the lost positions.



The U.S. and Russia agreed on a deconflicting area in the south-west of Syria, next to the Golan heights and the Jordan border. There is a significant ISIS contingent near the Golan height which is protected by Israeli artillery. Israel claimed that the new deconflicting agreement will forbid Iranian led groups or Lebanese Hizbullah forces to come near to the area. Russia denied that any such restrictions are part of the deal. When the right time comes ISIS and other militants in the area will be fought down by whatever group in the Syrian government alliance is available. It does not matter how much Netanyahoo is howling about "Iran". Israel is not in a position to launch any significant attack and will not be allowed to have any say on the issue.


In the north-east of Syria Al-Qaeda and its allies are still holding Idleb governate and Idleb city. As soon as the Syrian army operations at Abu Kamal are finished, Idelb will become the main battlefield. Already troops were put into position for an all out attack. Probing moves on several axes were launched to disperse the al-Qaeda fighters over a wide area. Several towns were liberated in a move towards the Ad Duhur area.


Over the next six month Idelb governate will be at the center of the war. Al-Qaeda, which rules the area, is not willing to give up without a fight. They are Takfiri terrorists. There is nothing to negotiate with them.

The Syrian government position is now better than at any other point of the war. It can concentrate experienced forces and it has the full support of significant allies. Syria's external enemies have mostly given up. It is unlikely that al-Qaeda will have and significant new supplies or support. I expect the fighting for Idleb province to be intense but relatively short.


U.S. Secretary of Defense General Mattis has announced that he wants to stay in Syria:

The U.S. military will fight Islamic State in Syria “as long as they want to fight,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday, describing a longer-term role for U.S. troops long after the insurgents lose all of the territory they control.
He also stressed the importance of longer-term peace efforts, suggesting U.S. forces aimed to help set the conditions of a diplomatic solution in Syria, now in its seventh year of civil war.

One wonders if Mattis has cleared the issue with his president. It is wishful thinking. Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Russia are against any residual U.S. troops in Syria. The U.S. has absolutely no right to be in the country. That its troops were so far allowed to operated there, was conditioned on the fight against ISIS. When ISIS has lost the last area it still holds, that fight will be over and the U.S. will have to leave. The rest of ISIS will be nothing more than a defeated guerilla movement on the run which the Syria government can easily hold down and eventually destroy.

Preparations have already been made to fight the U.S. troops in Syria should they not move out on their own. Local cells have been prepared in the north-east to attack U.S. forces wherever they move. The U.S. public does not support the hostile occupation of another Arab state. With all surrounding countries against a U.S. stay, Mattis' announcement is clearly of an unsustainable endeavor. Sec Def Mattis will have to climb down from his position. He is another example for the inability of military men to grasp a bigger political situation.


Large parts of Syria and its cities were damaged or destroyed by the war against its sovereignty. But destroyed cities can and will be rebuild. The wounds will heal. This picture of some devastated street in east-Aleppo exemplifies the hope and will of its people. Ahmed is back and reopened his shop. Five years on these streets will again be full of life.


Posted by b on November 16, 2017 at 17:48 UTC | Permalink


thanks b.. excellent coverage as per usual...

unfortunately the usa's intentions here continue to be not good... just to use the example of a concern for starvation, who is it that is blocading yemen and who are the supporting countries? same deal here in syria - usa supporting all the wrong players for all the wrong reasons.. i gets really tiring...thanks for your excellent coverage on all this..

Posted by: james | Nov 16 2017 17:54 utc | 1

israel is much the same as saudi arabia here too unfortunately... i see israel is willing to share intel info with saudi arabia, lol... i am sure they will do everything they can to help sa go after iran.. when sa falls apart, israel will still continue thanks their benefactor -usa/uk... not sure when that free meal gets used up...

Posted by: james | Nov 16 2017 17:57 utc | 2

Thanks for the summary. Appreciate it.

Posted by: @Madderhatter67 | Nov 16 2017 18:26 utc | 3

Tasil is being ignored by the media completely, most likely a run up for israel occupying the yarmouk basin to increase its water supplies the excuse will be either to protect the druze and minorities against al qaeda or iran backed militias either one israel will use as casus belli

Posted by: Garrett | Nov 16 2017 18:28 utc | 4

There is also the successful information attack conducted by US intelligence. The Russian Ministry of Defense published a report where it was showing clear evidence that the US is letting Daesh enter SDF territories unhindered near Abukamal. While the Russian Ministry of Defense evidently has a massive amount of pictures at their disposal, the photos that were attached to the report showing US complicity were easily debunkable fakes. Hours later it became clear something went wrong (computer hack, Facebook hack, officer selling out, ... ) and the Russian Ministry of Defense replaced the pictures by the authentic ones but by then the damage had been done. This successful information attack was then used by presstitute media over the globe to bash Russia, even though they would never have taken to effort to print the obvious truth, that the US is one of driving forces behind Daesh... globally.

Posted by: xor | Nov 16 2017 18:48 utc | 5

re:..the Russian Ministry of Defense replaced the pictures by the authentic ones but by then the damage had been done.Posted by: xor | Nov 16, 2017 1:48:29 PM | 5
Thank you, this is the only mention of what happened and how that I have seen. I'd assumed the fake photos were a joke, I didn't realize they were posted initially by Russia.

Posted by: frances | Nov 16 2017 19:26 utc | 6

Abu Kamal is now well defended with the most ferocious ISIS troops inside. They have nowhere to go.
Actually, I didn't agree with that bit. There will be another Jihaditransport, as before, when the time is right. The idea being, I think, to move them from place to place, into weaker and weaker situations, until finally they're pushed over the border (into Turkey), where they'll be finally dispersed. I suppose it would be ideal for the Syrians to move them to Idlib, where they could disrupt al-Nusra, but I doubt that that would be accepted. A good number from Raqqa went over the border.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 16 2017 19:31 utc | 7

Would it be possible to have Ahmed's adress ? I could have the occasion to pay him a visit. Such fortitude has my respect and given the occasion I think Ahmed won't mind a hello and a coffee if he is not too busy.

Posted by: DidierF | Nov 16 2017 19:33 utc | 8

@5xor... yes, i was following that too.. it was unfortunate, but to be expected... turning usa support for isis into hate russia fodder seems like a full time job for these folks..

Posted by: james | Nov 16 2017 19:49 utc | 9

The complicity of the western mainstream media in information warfare/propaganda (and adjuncts such as Bellingcat, who weighed in on the issue as well) were highlighted yet again by the widely dispersed story that "proof" of ISIS/USA coordination boiled down to a few photos borrowed from a video game. These deceptive reports ignored two widely corroborated issues: the movement of ISIS fighters out of Raqqa to the border town, and use of US air forces to support ISIS in holding the town until, presumably, the SDF arrive. Both of these issues were covered matter-of-factly (if downplayed) in the western press as they occurred, then assigned to the memory-hole when opportunity was presented to score a few cheap points. The utter contempt for their readers by these institutions is thus underscored again.

Posted by: jayc | Nov 16 2017 19:54 utc | 10

Here are the 2 articles on USIS cooroperation. South Front was a bit more elaborate but then my comment will be blocked so not posting any links.

US directly supports IS terrorists in Syria — Russian Defense Ministry

"The Abu Kamal liberation operation conducted by the Syrian government army with air cover by the Russian Aerospace Force at the end of the last week revealed facts of direct cooperation and support for ISIS terrorists by the US-led ‘international coalition,’" the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The ministry showed photo shoots made by Russian unmanned aircraft on November 9 which show kilometers-long convoys of IS armed groups leaving Abu Kamal
The US refused to conduct airstrikes over the leaving IS convoy.
The ministry also said that the coalition’s aviation tried to disturb Russia’s Aerospace Forces near Abu Kamal to ensure safe exit of terrorists.

"The coalition’s aviation tried to create obstacles for the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces in this area to safely shield militants of the Islamic State , who are leaving Abu Kamal,
To this aim, the coalition’s attack aircraft entered the airspace over the 15-km zone around the city to hamper the Russian aircraft’ mission, it said.
"There is indisputable evidence that the United States pretends it is waging irreconcilable struggle against international terrorism in front of the international community, while in reality it provides cover for the combat-ready Islamic State groups to let them regain strength, regroup themselves and advance US interests in the Middle East," the ministry said.

Defense Ministry provides explanation on wrong photos attached to Abu Kamal statement (Tass)

"The Russian Defense Ministry is investigating its civil service employee who erroneously attached wrong photo illustrations to its statement on interaction between the US-led international coalition and Islamic State militants near Abu Kamal, Syria," the ministry said.

"The United States’ refusal to carry out strikes against ISIL (former name of Islamic State - TASS) terrorist convoys retreating from Abu Kamal is a fact recorded in the transcripts of the talks and, therefore, well known to the American side, just as the active counteraction by US aircraft to the Russian Aerospace Forces, which were ready to destroy ISIL terrorists who were regrouping for new attacks against government troops near Abu Kamal," the Defense Ministry said.

The Russian Defense Ministry also provided authentic photos of an IS militant convoy heading for the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Posted by: xor | Nov 16 2017 20:06 utc | 11

As well as the US escorting ISIS terrorists to AlBukamel, there was a report that US troops (special forces?) had travelled south across nominally ISIS held territory, during a "sandstorm" (and without firing a shot). They are now apparently, setting up a base about 20 miles from Al Quaim, on the Irakian side of the border. (No details, but obviously to cut the road to Bagdad).

Coincides with the 120 new military vehicles that were sent recently to Syria - the inadvertant admission that there are 5'000 US troops in SA (not counting mercenaries?) - and the discovery that ISIS snipers are using the latest thermal sights, supplied by the US.

Q? When is a semi-war, a real war? With US aircraft stopping the Syrian's bombing ISIS, this is the closest to a real US/Rus fire-fight that we ahve seen. Note also that Israel has just killed four Syrian soldiers without any pretext. Ie. Open aggression.

Posted by: stonebird | Nov 16 2017 20:31 utc | 12

US is toast in Syria...

Even the Syrian Kurds know this...and are gravitating slowly but surely into Moscow's orbit...

Russia has been meeting with Kurdish YPG both at Hmeimim and elsewhere recently...

These talks are moving ahead and there will be closer cooperation...including Kurdish presence at the planned Syria conference this month in Sochi...

'...We are studying the issue and our stance has been positive so far," Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the administration that governs Kurdish-led autonomous regions of Syria, told Reuters.

That was Oct 31...much has happened since then...

The only real obstacle is Turkey...which is a 'partner' now in Syria...but views the PKK-allied YPG with distrust...

But the writing is on the wall...the Kurds are about to ditch Washington at the first opportunity...

What possible motive would they have for choosing the obvious loser as a their partner...?

Nobody views the US as an honest broker...that has been proved thoroughly over the ages...starting with the Plains Indians...

Another reason is that many Syrian Kurds do consider themselves Syrians first...and do in fact want a whole Syria...

They must be quite aware that the US is using them as pawns and nothing more...

Mattis is clown who is way out of his depth...

This was described in some detail to journo Pepe highly placed US intel sources...

'...Mattis has no strategic sense at all and should be no more than a minor Marine functionary as his ability is very limited...

Posted by: flankerbandit | Nov 16 2017 21:28 utc | 13

Ahmed is back and reopened his shop

what a beautiful and haunting photograph...Edward Hopper

The bad captain madman had ordered their fate

Posted by: john | Nov 16 2017 21:29 utc | 14

Just for a bit of pedantry, to annoy readers and no doubt show off my Arabic, the name is not Abu Kamal, but Albu Kamal. 'Al' is not the Arabic definite article, but means people, as in tribe, as you find in Al Sa'ud. 'Bu Kamal' is short for Abu Kamal, and means the father of Kamal. Abu 'father of' is a title given to a man after his eldest son. For example, the Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas, is called Abu Mazin after his eldest son. So, in the end the name means the tribe of the father of Kamal, a person who was no doubt a somewhat fictitious ancestor. It's a formation quite common in Iraq. For example, Saddam was captured in a village called Albu Hasan (not checked).

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 16 2017 21:29 utc | 15

It is to be expected that the US will simply hunker down and
make things as difficult as possible for SAA and allies. Remember
Obama said it in 2016: "we'll make sure they suffer for it".

They are still aiming for regime change and only numerous body
bags will force them to reconsider.

The US gambles on the notion that Russia will not push back vigo-
rously, and will only protest but not shoot down the interfering

As long as this is the case, the US will bully Syria and the Syrians.

Asking them to leave will produce no tangible results. They will
keep entrenching themselves. Israel will not allow them to accept
that they cannot achieve their aim: to replace Assad with their puppet/s.

Posted by: CarlD | Nov 16 2017 21:46 utc | 16

The battle for abu Kamal might be more difficult that you think.

General Dunford had been communicating with the Russian military up to this point, but now, it doesn't look like it. Which is understandable since the US and Syria want to control the same city.

I thought that Deir Ezzor would be the place where Russia finally faced off with the US.
But it could be abu kamal.

just sayin'....

Posted by: plantman | Nov 16 2017 21:57 utc | 17

re CarlD 16. The US 'hunkering down' is not going to work. Sooner or later, the Syrian Kurds are going to operate on their vision of the future, which is make a deal with Asad. The US forces will be left isolated.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 16 2017 22:02 utc | 18

Re 18

They can still count on the various Al Sham and whatever is left
of ISIS they have been saving all this time.

I agree that the Kurds will probably not stay in US's orbit. But ISIS
an Al Sham have no choice.

Posted by: CarlD | Nov 16 2017 22:07 utc | 19

re 19. So the US will be left with un-winning fragments. Sounds like withdrawal time to me, at some point in the future.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 16 2017 22:27 utc | 20

Re: 20

They are still in Irak, Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France,
England, Cuba... Oooh, the list is so long I will tire before getting to its end.

If it were not for the Pinatubo they would still be in the Phillipines.

Once they have a beach head, nothing will release their grip on it.

That is a fact of life. We will have to wait until the end of WWIII, I guess.

Posted by: CarlD | Nov 16 2017 22:33 utc | 21

The situation in Iraq is parallel. By a stunning agreement with the Talebanis of Sulaimaniyya, Baghdad has been able to recover Kirkuk, and all the territory occupied by the Kurds. Now there's an agreement to abandon independence. The US is not involved. The US is left without allies. Staying in Iraq is going to be difficult.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 16 2017 22:40 utc | 22

@Laguerre: Thanks, you surpass me largely in both knowledge and pedentry now, ouch! I feel more humble master.

Posted by: jfb | Nov 16 2017 22:45 utc | 23

i think the problem for many of us here is the close and ongoing connection that usa/uk/israel have with saudi arabia.. however the west wants to rationalize any of it, the headchoppers are a wahabbi death cult and yes - saudi arabia continues to refuse entry into the critical ports of yemen that will prevent what saudi arabia seems quite happy to inflict on the overall people of yemen... so, i think for myself anyway - this ugly trio - usa/uk/israel, can propagandize all they want.. it doesn't change what many can clearly see at this moment..

Posted by: james | Nov 16 2017 22:47 utc | 24

RE 23 & 24

Judging by the secondary and tertiary explosions along with the black plumes it has all the markings of a chemical explosion.

BTW that explosion happened more than two years ago:

Posted by: Tacitus | Nov 16 2017 23:04 utc | 25

Mr Matis and his military clowns are violating the international laws and committing war crimes against the human Syrian nationals and should be prescuted as such.
The USA think they have the right to occupy any land they wish without consequences simply because they own the U.N. , the cowardly united nation who basically serve the interest of the western nations and Israel and the Zionism around the world should be ashamed for not keeping with charter of the U.N. .

Posted by: Bobby | Nov 17 2017 0:25 utc | 26

Tacitus. What sort of explosive signature do you expect the Soviet nuclear bullets made?

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 17 2017 0:42 utc | 27

Over the next six month Idelb governate will be at the center of the war. Al-Qaeda, which rules the area, is not willing to give up without a fight. They are Takfiri terrorists. There is nothing to negotiate with them.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 17 2017 0:56 utc | 28

Interesting theory. Wondering if any corroboration;

Posted by: John Merryman | Nov 17 2017 2:15 utc | 29

John @33:
That guy doesn't appear to have that much facial hair as MbS. Given the armed escort, it's obvious that guy is a VIP. Were there any other Saudi princes in LV?

Posted by: Ian | Nov 17 2017 3:35 utc | 30


I have no idea. I came across it in the comments section at ZH;
and thought MoA would be a good place to run it by.

Posted by: John Merryman | Nov 17 2017 4:30 utc | 31

@all - [deleted some "tactic nukes" comments above. Some large explosion isn't from "tactical nuke" just because some people want to sound important. One can't hide the radiation and other side effects. Such claims then are obviously nonsense -b]

@Laguerre - Abu Kamal versus Albu Kamal

I was aware of the differences. I looked it up before writing about the town. Both names seem to be in use. Wikipedia and others use Abu Kamal. The Russians use Albu Kamal. I decided to adopt the Wikipedia spelling. It makes it easier for the reader here to look up additional information.

Posted by: b | Nov 17 2017 6:44 utc | 32

I read, I think in AMN, that Syrian forces have for the first time at Abu Kamal, ground penetrating rockets. From what has occurred, it seems ISIS/US has an extensive tunnel system and set a trap for Syrian forces. Looks like US trying to give air cover as well, with their so called air corridor. The clowns that think up this crap still think they are dealing with some defenceless third world country that does not have geoplitical clout nor widely read media.
With Russian backing, Syrian forces will destroy US in Abu Kamal, though it seems sems the US establishment in retreat is determined to inflict as many casualties as possible.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Nov 17 2017 6:55 utc | 33

Re 29, 30, 31:

Joseph Farrell covers these speculations his weekly video podcast:

Posted by: 9308305K | Nov 17 2017 7:53 utc | 34

@DidierF 8: D, if you get to Ahmed's place, please carry to him my respect, solidarity and sympathy for all that's been done to his country by the foreign gangsters. Not all Westerners are as criminal as those who govern our countries. Nor as blind.

Posted by: Rhisiart Gwilym | Nov 17 2017 8:26 utc | 35

17 The dream seems to be for the SDF to take Abu Kamal.

Which makes you wonder who had the incentive for ISIS to take a "last stand" there.

You are correct. The Russian/US face off is happening now.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 17 2017 9:07 utc | 36


Wikipedia and others use Abu Kamal.
Yeah, I knew that. But immediately after the article title, Abu Kamal, they give the name in Arabic, and there it's Albu Kamal. I suspect we're talking about some French administrator under the Mandate getting it wrong because he only knew Classical Arabic. Albu Kamal is ungrammatical in good Arabic, so no doubt had to be "corrected". Or maybe it was a Syrian working for them - Syrians are very hot on Arabic grammar. Anyway I'm only being pedantic.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 17 2017 14:21 utc | 37

Re Saudi and Israel against Lebanon - why now?

By 2025, Israel plans to supply Cyprus, Crete, Italy and Europe with energy from its offshore oil/gas fields. The direct energy line to Cyprus passes through Lebanese territorial water that Israel covets (via a territoriality dispute). Currently, Lebanon and Russia are negotiating an oil/gas exploration deal in these waters would could pre-empt or at least complicate Israel's EU energy plans.

Solution - destroy Lebanon or make sufficient threats so it backs off energy deals with Russia.

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 17 2017 15:15 utc | 38

Who will fire the first shot?

US troops?

Considering Russia "respected" the "air corridor" that prevented
them from annihilating ISIS, it is doubtful that they will be the first ones.

US troops will not waiver from firing at SAA, Hezb. or Ir.. It would not be
the first time. A repeat should not surprise anyone. They will claim some
"error" when confronted.

While SAA will refrain, Ir. or Hezb. might likely be the most prone to
retaliate in kind.

At this point, will Russia back up its allies? That is open to question but the
most probable reply is they will not. Through words, certainly. Through deeds?
I would be surprised; the US tables on the Bear being very, very, patient.

Expect the Bear to go to the UN and protest energetically.

Unless, they clobber the known US position "by mistake" due to wrong
coordinates entered in some Kalibr.

That could be.

Not much to wait.

Posted by: CarlD | Nov 17 2017 15:33 utc | 39


Looks like Turkey coming to the rescue.

YPG won't fight for the US if the US can't protect them from Turkey.

A strange situations seems to have developed in Turkey - NATO relations.

Turkey seems to coordinate closely with Iran and Russia in Syria.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 17 2017 15:47 utc | 40

The biggest and most repeated mistake is the statement "This was is over", "almost over", "soon over" etc.
It was uttered as early 2015 when Russia entered the scene and since then again and again. It was repeated after the recapture of East Aleppo, the recapture of Palmyra and Deir al Zour.

The truth is that the rebels are being supplied without interruption no matter what Trump said about stopping to arm them. Through the Turkish and the Jordanian borders both the Idlib Jihadis as well as the "FSA" in Deraa are resupplied.
Thousands of TOWs are out there and sadly major parts of the local populace in both peripheral provinces sympathize with the insurgents.

From a well entrenched defensive position a few thousand Ghouta rebels can block the advance of loyalist troops who due to lack of man power have to rely on foreign and domestic non-local soldiers (e.g. fighters from Tartous engaging Damascene rebels). Abandoned ruins are "liberated" at the cost of tens of casualties from tunnel bombs and snipers, not to mention the loss of tanks and other armour. The rebels are fighting a low cost but effective war.

Ghouta, Idlib and Deraa/Quneitra will be very bloody battles and not over until at least 2019.

Besides you never know under what pretext the US and/or Israel could carry out single attacks or grab land. Effectively, while the US can and will attack Syrian, Hizbollah or Iranian convoys or bases, the attacked cannot retaliate without risking to have the US start a full scale air campaign. Russia will protest but will not dare shooting down US aircraft or giving Syria the necessary air defense.

Posted by: KerKaraje | Nov 17 2017 17:55 utc | 41

The Russians used their veto to destroy the UN CW.NYT.hurrah.

Posted by: dahoit | Nov 17 2017 17:59 utc | 42

US CENTCOM is running the Syrian War of aggression, and the not arming announcement was pertaining to the CIA alone. It did not mention the military or coalition or NATO or aliens from Mars arming the terrorists.

Russia will de-conflict their air attacks. Whether the US interferes or not is a minor thing. Kalibrs will adjust to where the planes can't hit.

The only limitations for Russia in the war is the production line of Kalibrs at Russian factories. They need a few hundred missiles to do the job at the Iraqi border. It's a zone where the US can interfere in the air because it is beyond the reach of the S-400s.

The Golan border region and the Idlib and Ghouta locations are doomed to suffer whatever the Russians want to use to exterminate the radical Islamic vermin.
They all are under the S-400 missile defenses and the US will not be flying without permission.

Posted by: Red Ryder | Nov 17 2017 18:15 utc | 43

why does the word donmeh and the house of saud
why does the mention of chatham house in london
why does the mention of the 50 plus year conspiracy between israel,the house of saud,the empire of the city of london and team usa usa.
not to mention james confusion over this so called new alliance between saudi and israeli.
what is wrong with words on oded yino.
word deltetion from an ike site or a alex jones or huffington.
this site i was told was not kosher.
off topic is it
or confusion better than clarity
clean up crew eisle 2

Posted by: terry thomas | Nov 17 2017 18:25 utc | 44

why does the word donmeh and the house of saud
why does the mention of chatham house in london
why does the mention of the 50 plus year conspiracy between israel,the house of saud,the empire of the city of london and team usa usa.
not to mention james confusion over this so called new alliance between saudi and israeli.
what is wrong with words on oded yino.
word deltetion from an ike site or a alex jones or huffington.
this site i was told was not kosher.
off topic is it
or confusion better than clarity

Posted by: terry thomas | Nov 17 2017 18:25 utc | 45

KerKaraje # 41

Now that is a really nutty comment. The R+6 forces are in the process of destroying ISIS and al Qaida in Syria. It is not an easy task given that once these ISIS forces are defeated from fixed positions their fanatical Takfiris will reposition themselves as small bands as independent terrorists. The important point is that they are dispersed and are losing their logistical streams from the CIA,KSA and Turkey. They will be running out of money, ammunition and sustenance support. At some point the US will realize that they are losers and withdraw support.

This does not mean that they have been destroyed; small terrorist cells will continue for some time. Check out the second Chechen War. It took the Russians about 6 months to defeat the Islamist armies that had taken up fixed positions within Chechnyan cities (that was in about 2000-2001). It wasn't until about 2012 when the last guerilla groups finally capitulated and fled to Turkey (and then dispersed through the rest of the ME, and are still alive to fight for ISIS). Those fanatics will be causing mischief for years to come. But they will not be fighting as organized armies backed by the KSA, Qatar, Turkey and the US.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 17 2017 20:59 utc | 46

ToivoS #46

the comparison with Chechnya is incorrect in many aspects:
1. The Chechen rebels were not armed, trained and funded by Nato states + GCC
2. Russia is militarily a super power
3. Russia had much more man power than the SAA, especially compared to the man power of Chechen rebels

Idlib is a very tough battleground, full of well armed, battle hardened SVBIED drivers and suicide bombers with Turkey as hinterland.
Southern Syria is not that difficult but still very challenging. Probably 30.000 rebels, awash in TOWs.

Posted by: KerKaraje | Nov 17 2017 21:17 utc | 47

KerKaraje @46

I think that you are splitting hairs, of course every conflict/war has its own special characteristics, but the two situations have sufficiently many similarities that the analogy helps in making projections for the future.

Chechens were getting some supplies from Georgia through Pankisi Gorge. They also had advanage of terrain, and a superior martial tradition -- if American Indians (in USA) were more like Chechens, the "West" would probably be not won. Russian Empire used more than 30 years to put down their rebelion, and people tend to take inspiration from their ancestors.

Erdogan, however erratic, seemingly concluded that it is better to be a part of the solution than the part of the problem that would be spilling to Turkey itself. The tangle of intelligence organizations that supply Idlib taqfiris may defy his fiat to some extend, but so far, the "partial reconciliation" with Syria, Russia and Iran works better than I have expected.

Terrorism is a perenial problem in countries that function reasonably well, like Colombia, Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, Iran or Algeria, so eliminating pockets controlled by taqfiris will allow Syria to function reasonably well. Think about USA that survives numerous small massacres with stride.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Nov 17 2017 22:00 utc | 48

I wrote about "tangle of intelligence organizations". This relates to my theory of "pet cobras". Governments find it necessary to fund criminal organizations that do dirty work, hopefully to the benefit of their citizens. They are called "intelligence services that perform three functions: (a) collect and analyze information, (b) concocting propaganda, a.k.a. information war, (c) assorted lethal stuff.

But these organizations also create "proxies" that are wrongly perceived to be their puppets. Rather than puppets, these proxies are seriously deranged cranks that feel very strongly about their ideology. Normal sane people have hard time interacting with them, so intelligence services must include internal interface that is sympathetic to those "pet cobras". So we can see criminal organizations that are inherently hard to control, being above the law after all, and with many subgroups that cooperate with those "pet cobras". So putting those genies back into their bottles can be pretty tough, and that discourages civilian authorities to even try. It is much easier to develop an insane agenda that suits all of them.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Nov 17 2017 22:15 utc | 49

KerKaraje @46 said:

1. The Chechen rebels were not armed, trained and funded by Nato states + GCC

I think these claims are in dispute. If I recall the Russian government has complained that the Chechen rebels were being supported by the US (via the CIA), supplied via Turkey and provided diplomatic support in the EU (i.e. giving Chechen rebels diplomatic protection against deportation because they were 'freedom fighters').

Kerkey, you might want to do some research on this before spouting off.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 18 2017 1:47 utc | 50

The Kurds indeed are wary of the US, and they have good reason. If they can be persuaded that a semi-autonomous region can be part of a solution, they will certainly be easy to deal with. The prospect of a conflict between the US and Russia, or the actions the US might take to avoid one, should give pause. I believe the US military has a free hand and is not meaningfully directed by Trump. Their opinion (the military's) is that the regime is a proxy for Iran. I have heard much made of a land bridge between Tehran and Damascus and it begins to sound like the Saudis.

But there is too much war. And it will continue until some very hard choices are made. That means it will likely continue indefinitely.

Posted by: Alan Harvey | Nov 18 2017 7:24 utc | 51


'...The Chechen rebels were not armed, trained and funded by Nato states + GCC...'

President Putin begs to William Engdahl points out...

'...Putin stated that the terror in Chechnya and in the Russian Caucasus in the early 1990’s was actively backed by the CIA and western Intelligence services to deliberately weaken Russia. He noted that the Russian FSB foreign intelligence had documentation of the US covert role without giving details...'

Read the story then come back and tell us what you 'know...'

Posted by: flankerbandit | Nov 19 2017 23:06 utc | 52

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