Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 10, 2018

Syria - Army Gains In Idleb - Insurgents To Challenge Foreign Occupiers

While the U.S. seems to have given up on regime change in Syria it is still trying to sabotage the progress of the Syrian government and its allies.

The recent drone attack on the Russian base Khmeimim in Latakia is just one example. Thirteen sophisticated armed drones with a reach of some 100 kilometers attacked the base at the same time as a U.S. electronic warfare plane was circling off the Syrian coast. The attack was unsuccessful. Russia has sophisticated electronic warfare means and hijacked the command over six of the drones. The other seven were taken down by Russian air defenses.

To claim, as the U.S. does, that ISIS or some "rebels" did this is nonsense. ISIS has made short range weaponized drones flown by remote control in line of sight mode. This attack was by autonomous drones using GPS and barometric sensors to find their way to their targets. This is qualitatively on a whole new level. I doubt that Russia will let this go unanswered. Look out for some "mishap" that may soon hit some U.S. troops or interests abroad.

Three significant military operations took place over the last few weeks.


In the south-west Syrian government troops, in cooperation with local Druze, managed to completely take the area of Beit Jinn next to the Lebanese border and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.


Al Qaeda elements within the pocket gave up after Syrian troops captured the nearby mountain tops and achieved fire control over the area. They were transported off to Idleb. The northern blue part in the map above is now under government control.

Immediately east of Damascus city the Ghouta pocket, held by various Jihadi groups, has long been a huge problem. Grenades fired from the area can easily reach the center of Damascus. Over the last eight weeks more than 350 civilians in Damascus city have been killed or wounded by such attacks.

Ghouta is controlled by al-Qaeda elements, Ahrar al-Sham and the Saudi financed Jaish al-Islam. In the western side of the area government forces have long held on to a large military base. Two weeks ago elements of Ahrar al-Sham broke an existing de-escalation agreement and attacked the base with a huge force. The third grade troops guarding the facilities had problems defending against the attack and were losing ground. They were encircled and isolated. After a few days government reinforcements lifted the siege on the base and expanded the corridor leading to it.


It is high time to eliminate the Ghouta pocket. But the area includes densely built-up quarters and a move on it would require a large force and be very bloody. The Syrian government and its Russian supporters seem to believe that the Saudis can be influenced to give up on their Ghouta "rebels". It might then be possible to regain control over the area without an all-out fight.

The third, largest and most importent operation of the last week is a fight in north-Hama and east-Idleb governorate.

When in 2015 Idelb was occupied by U.S. and Turkey supported "rebels" the government held city of Aleppo lost its road connection to the southern core of the country. The Syrian government built a new road through the desert further east to resupply the city. But that road is insufficient for the amount of traffic needed to rejuvenate the now liberated Aleppo.

A direct road connection from Damascus, Homs and Hama to Aleppo is needed passing through al-Qaeda held territory in eastern Idleb. After weeks of preparation by aerial bombing elite Syrian forces attacked from Hama northward towards Aleppo. After breaking through al-Qaeda's defense line they liberated nearly 100 townships and cities. In a new phenomenon local inhabitants of the area evicted the al-Qaeda "rebels" even before SAA troops arrived. These troop are now on the border of the large Abu-al-Duhur airbase which is the most strategic point in the wider area.


The al-Qaeda forces east of the wedge the government forces drove into Idleb governorate are in immediate danger of encirclement. They have started to flee towards the western parts of Idleb which are still open towards the Turkish borders.

When the new road to Aleppo is secured the government troops will consolidate the pocket east of it. Further operations will then depend on the outcome of the various diplomatic initiatives which are currently worked on.

The U.S. supported forces in north-east Syria still have problems to get a grip on the last ISIS held townships north of the Euphrates. The U.S. special forces have turned several local tribes, which had earlier fought with ISIS, to its side. They are re-training these forces. But the local tribes lack the fighting spirit and motivation to attack their former allies.

In late January Russia will convene a large conference with hundreds of Syrian opposition and government figures to talk about the constitutional changes and elections in Syria. It is not yet sure who will take part in it. One problem are Kurdish organizations which Turkey, as one of the sponsors of the de-escalation process, does not want to see recognized as political entities. Turkey under Erdogan continues to be hostile to the Syrian government and people. Weapons are still flowing through the Turkish border to Jihadis in Idleb and ISIS fighters who flee the country towards Europe can still pass. Turkey covets the Kurdish Afrin enclave in north-west Syria but the current balance of force does not allow it to attack.

In the greater picture (recommended) the Turkish anti-Kurdish occupation in the north-west of Syria and the U.S. pro-Kurdish occupation in the north-east cancel each other out. Neither force can move further without endangering their common NATO interests. Politically and militarily the U.S. is still the biggest threat to peace in Syria.

The U.S. insists on a continuation of the stillborn Geneva process that was once convened by the UN to find a political solution in Syria. It still wants the government under President Assad to leave. People in the Trump administration still hope to gain at the conference table what they could not achieve in seven years of vicious proxy-fighting against the Syrian people. It is unlikely that they will now succeed.

Syria has shown that it has the will and ability to resist U.S. "regime change". The military and its allies will continue to consolidate the current positions. But to free all of its northern parts from Turkish and U.S. occupation is too big of a task for the still small army. This can be more easily achieved by local insurgencies. Syria has battle hardened militia outside of its regular military. These have been trained by and fought with Hizbullah. They can be infiltrated into the occupation zones and make the situation unbearable for the occupiers. Syrian interests in these areas far outweigh those of the occupying countries. While it will take time there is little doubt that -in the end- the people of Syria will win this fight and liberate their country.

Posted by b on January 10, 2018 at 13:48 UTC | Permalink


Minor point: it is surprising just how sophisticated hobbyist drones can be. You can buy modules for GPS and barometric pressure and multi-axis gyros etc. for dirt cheap. Of course, these modules will not be civilian grade and will not be hardened against jamming etc., which certainly sounds like what happened. Civilian GPS in particular can be easily over-ridden by external jamming. Granted that military systems are likely more robust, I am sure that the US is very interested in Russian anti-GPS jamming systems, given the heavy reliance of the US on GPS technology.

Posted by: TG | Jan 10 2018 13:56 utc | 1

well, what U really mean in your comment up here,TG?
the US has deep interest in russian anti GPS systems but seemingly the 13 or so devices used last week to hit Russian bases were cheap hobbyist, shelf type stuff?
Or have we misinterpreted your view?

Posted by: augusto | Jan 10 2018 14:28 utc | 2

"most impotent operation of the last week", it was quite potent and important

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 10 2018 14:31 utc | 3

Russian MoD: a US spy plane was spotted patrolling above the two Russian bases in Syria at the time of the drone attack.

Posted by: TG | Jan 10, 2018 8:56:45 AM | 1

The Russian MoD denies the drones were anything like hobbyist or makeshift drones, precisely. Those were serious military-grade combat drones.

Posted by: Lea | Jan 10 2018 14:44 utc | 4

Hi, the first "bigger" map does not load.

Posted by: Lech | Jan 10 2018 15:00 utc | 5

The US/YPG forces hold mostly-desert eastern Syria, east of the Euphrates (yellow portion of upper map), including the oil fields in the south of that area, but they will be completely land-locked by Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The US (after suffering some pay-back casualties perhaps) will have to admit defeat and leave.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 10 2018 15:06 utc | 6

For as much as I would love to see the US leave Syria (and other occupied territories)
it seems that given an inexhaustible supply of dollars and volunteers for its meat grinder
this is not going to happen anytime soon.

As can be construed from RT's recent article, the new Trump doctrine authorizes
nuclear responses to conventional attacks.

"One of the key changes to the US policy would be an expansion of circumstances
in which a nuclear attack would be considered.
Under the new NPR, a conventional attack that causes mass casualties or targets critical
infrastructure may trigger a nuclear retaliation from the US."

Which means that there will be disproportionate responses to regular attacks. It seems
the US is learning from Israel.

Therefore, I am pessimistic when it comes to withdrawal from Syria, unless the Bear
gets tired of being poked and starts using some of its muscle.

So the attack on the Kmeimin base was being monitored by a U.S. Poseidon spy craft
in a swarm assault experiment. The Russians were aware of its unauthorized presence.
Why didn't they shoot it?

Posted by: CarlD | Jan 10 2018 15:38 utc | 7

ZeroHedge quoting the Pentagon statement: "The Pentagon countered that while the US was “concerned” over the incident, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankin-Galloway, however, claimed that “those devices and technologies can easily be obtained in the open market.” He later also told Sputnik that the US already saw what it called “this type of commercial UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] technology” being used in Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) missions."

Interesting. How does HE know what technologies were used in the drones? Sounds like the US protest was a Freudian slip. And quite the coincidence that the operation was being monitored by a Poseidon. Was a warning radioed to the Russians that what appeared to be a swarm of drones was detected incoming? The attacks by various mediums over the last few days on the Russian airbase clearly shows defenses are being tested, and apparently tested in some scientific detail by having spy plane monitors. May be for planning of future attacks, may be because the US has determined it is losing and wants to gain as much intel as possible now, in case they have to bug out soon and lose the ability to test current tech Russian defenses. Where else in the world could they do so without starting a top-level conflict? One wonders if the drones were all configured differently, in an attempt to pin down up to what level of shielding Russian tech could take over a drone, and beyond which they would have to be shot down?

Posted by: J Swift | Jan 10 2018 15:46 utc | 8

The principal US objective, using ISIS, YPG and others, has been to break the "Shia crescent" from Tehran to Beirut, which the US stupidly created with its Operation Iraqi Freedom. That is a failure even with the US/YPG in eastern Syria, as seen here.
So chalk up another military failure for the Pentagon and its clueless generals.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 10 2018 15:46 utc | 9

Thanks for the update b - very informative and valuable.

I am In the UK and the BBC was showing news about poor children in Ghouta suffering because of the govt. With none of the background as to who is there. And what is actually going on

I would like to ask in relation to the point raised by Don Bacon @6
Does the govt hold more of the important areas/big cities?
What percentage of the population are in govt controlled areas?

Thank you

Posted by: James lake | Jan 10 2018 15:49 utc | 10

from M K Bhadrakumar

>Why is the US is contesting the Russian bases in Syria? The point is, these Russian bases are located in Latakia province along the Mediterranean coast. And the US military objective is to gain access to the Mediterranean coast for the Kurdistan enclave it is creating in Syria without which the enclave will be landlocked and dependent critically on supply routes via Turkey or Iraq, apart from being economically unviable (although it is an oil-rich region of Syria.)
>The Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Monday that the Trump administration is planning to grant diplomatic recognition to the Kurdistan enclave in northern Syria (which is of the size of Lebanon.) The idea is to create a permanent foothold for the US and Israel in a strategic, economically self-sufficient independent Kurdistan where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet, and which may eventually reach Iran’s western border with northern Iraq.
>But the US-Israeli strategy will remain a pipedream if the Kurdistsn is land-locked and continues to be challenged by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hence the criticality of creating an access route to the Mediterranean via Latakia province.. . .here

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 10 2018 15:54 utc | 11

The first map shows pockets of Dash still exist.

The UN mandate called on countries that were able to “eradicate the safe haven” that Dash and al Qaeda had created for themselves in Syria.

As long as pockets of Dash and al Qaeda exit, doesn’t that allow US to justify their presence in the country?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 10 2018 16:02 utc | 12

I'm not surprised by the use of drones by the US. IMO Syria is THE testbed for new military technology, as the US can probe the efficacy of Russian S-400 systems. It was just a matter of time before swarming technologies were being tested in combat.

As stated in other news sources, the attack would require a sophisticated control center to manage the attack, which would explain the presence of a US spy plane lurking nearby.

The strategy of launching said drones from Turkish controlled areas adds the additional benefit of attempting to drive a wedge between the Turks and Russians.

The downside of testing this new technology is that the result will be escalatory with a green light given to the Russians to test their drone technology on American assets. This is after all a war, cold to hot, irrespective to what the diplomats may say.

IMO the entire affair is particularly tragic, as the constant drought besetting the entire Middle East for the last 5 to 9 years is just a prelude to the climatic challenges awaiting us all. The the situation will become all the more grim as water becomes more scarce, and temperatures soar, due to a runaway climate beginning to rear its ugly head with the melting of the Arctic. While the US lost half of its wheat crop in a matter of weeks to a flash drought last summer, Russia has become the largest exporter of wheat, due to our 2014 sanctions. I wonder what the West will do when it starts getting hungry and it has alienated a possibly great food supplier.

Posted by: Michael | Jan 10 2018 16:04 utc | 13

@James lake #10
The Syrian government controls all major cities, Russia and Syria have declared victory, and the US has changed its position on regime change: Assad can stay and the Syria people (not Washington) can decide who governs them.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 10 2018 16:06 utc | 14

As the US continues to strengthen it's strangle hold on a third of Syria, Russia apologists continue to claim that Russia saved Syria! Sure ok. Russia saved Syria from the wolf so that the lion could swallow it up.

Posted by: paul | Jan 10 2018 16:09 utc | 15

@paul #15
As the US continues to strengthen it's strangle hold on a third of Syria,
Means nothing -- see my #6.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 10 2018 16:13 utc | 16

It’s grim pleasure, and sort of entertaining fun, to sit among the armchair “warfighters” and geopoiliticians with all our varying degrees of expertise and knowledge. To sit and watch “events,” and parse and digest and predict and prognosticate about all the complex goings-on in the subdivision of global forever war that we call “Syria.” Which we cognoscenti tend to refer to as a reification with substance (yet lacking the kind of detail that can give a possibly more accurate and possibly predictive notion of ‘What’s shakin.’ )The same simplification via hypostatization that we also do in talking and thinking about all the other players and moving parts of the Game, I guess necessarily, given the mode and scope of the blog form of communication.

I imagine, probably inaccurately, that the more involved players, with their white papers and intelligence estimates and assessments and access to the Global Network-Centric Interoperable Battlespace thingie and all the inputs from intel and lobbyists and courtiers from all the players fiscally interested in movements and outcomes, might have better and more accurate and “grainier” views and understandings of the state of play, along with a more complete review of the bidding. And some kind of organizing principle in mind, for what they have done, what they are doing, and hope and plan to do in future. Of course if one looks around, one finds input and thinking that looks a lot like this:

What are, and what “ought to be,” the organizing principles best to be pursued and actuated by us nearly 8 billion humans? All well and good to be a little comforted that the Syrian national army (with its backers and allies) is maybe kicking some brigands and thieves and war-banders out of areas they have “taken over.”’ Takeovers done with the encouragement and assistance of other backers and allies. Or, given the Byzantine and Machiavellian and totally corrupt and cynical nature of the Game, maybe some of the same people “backing” and “supplying” and “training” the “pro-Government forces,” who the heck knows?) All those “take-overs” accomplished with more ,or less, cooperation and resistance from people living there.

So discourse about the Game and its play is structured around naming and attempting to analyze and put in context and rationalize and excoriate actions and structures of all the mostly mythical unitary characters, “monads” if you will, like “Syria” and “the US” and “Russia” and “Venezuela” and “Nigeria” and “China” and so forth, in this ongoing set of complex activities, shifting interests and alliances and supply chains and weapons development and murder. We, who spend time looking down this set of silos and postholes, try to tease out the threads of continuity and organization that we are just SURE must tie together, or at least explain and offer hints how to manipulate and ameliorate, all this activity and plotting and counter-counter-counter-inititaives and -operations. Kind of like the authors of a deep scholarly law review articles, who clam to find rules of decision and hence “rule of law” in the variegated decisions of our Supreme and lower courts.

Do the people running all the bits of this have any kind of organizing principle(s) directing their so very energetic daily workload and planning sessions? Another blog owner, who ought to know, said in response to that question, ‘of course not, it’s as it has always been and will be, it’s just individuals and groups pursuing immediate interests.’ He, of course, spent his career working for, and now spends his days speaking for, an organizing principle, maybe styled ‘reformed and more successful hegemony” in the current parlance. And he is only one of millions who are thus involved in the Game., pulling on one of the many ropes attached to the Jaganath all are worshiping and augmenting.

So, many of us look for rationales and structures, and signs of hope that this is not just the end-game for our species, yet we sit in among people who are also (if only we knew, in this anonymous internet space where new forms of contention and deception and “persuasion”) playing smaller or larger roles, as part of still other “operations and initiatives.” And try to sort out “true facts” from the sly manipulations and deceptions and distractions of those ladling out the flood of Bernays Sauce we are all poaching in.

Too bad there is no such thing as a Prime Directive, an organizing principle, particularly one that says “do not kill your species with your stratagems and predilections.” Increasingly, it looks like a mass death wish, with all the stacking of means and modes of destruction and death, from nuclear weapons (proliferating, on top of the thousands “commanded” the Demonstrably Incompetent Yet Massively Self-interested Warfighters in every “nation-state” and “tribe with flags,” like the 200 to 600 the Israelites have built, and now the NKs, and the hate-driven folks in India and Pakistan with their ancient enmities and “rational mutual suspicions. And ambitions”) to CRSP-R technology, to the globalized world of trade and finance, to AI that even its proponents and creators fear, to plastics everywhere, soil depletion and killing of potable water resources to irreversible climate effects from several centuries of carbo-combusts-consumption, to the IoT as a self-destructive Golem, for which we have lost the magic word of control. And so forth.

Though, of course, where lies and deception and stratagems plotted and carried out by the “successful few” at the top of heap are concerned, we can’t even tell if it’s the case that all the bad news and sorrows we are informed about aren’t just part of some grand “fear, uncertainty and doubt” initiative and operation to fill us with existential dread and inject the virus of a vast sense of futility (an initiative that would go along with the asymptotic increase in looting behaviors by the Few and their commensallists) to keep the mass of us passive and bowed and accepting the sweep of the executioner’s blade, after they have taken all our stuff and all our futures... Funny lines from “Buckaroo Banzai,” rendered immortal by John Lithgow in his character as a Red Lectroid from the 8th Dimension: “Laugh’a while you can, monkey-boy!” And another, apropos of what I’m exploring here: “Jesu Christe! It’a Make the ganglia TWITCH!”

One wonders, then, “Is that all there is?”

Posted by: JTMcPhee | Jan 10 2018 16:18 utc | 17

Russia has an opportunity to go USS Liberty ship on US electronics planes and UAVs.
Of course, they won't.

The most interesting information from b. and Magnier's blog is that Syria intends to wage an insurgency war of its own against the Turks, Kurds, AQ, al Nusra proxies in the de-escalation zones.

This seems very good. Better than waging a counter-insurgency war that the US and Israel are shaping for the Syrians to fight. The US attempt to turning ISIS and AQ into insurgents seems problematic. Mostly, they will be terrorists on small scale, disrupting transportation and reconstruction of Syrian economy.

If Syria launches its own insurgents in "occupied" areas, it will have the 'sea' of the populace to support its warriors. Already, in Idlib this is occurring. And presumably, along the Lebanon, Golan borders.

Whatever, the future is more war, large scale or small scale. Poor Syria. How its neighbors desire to consume her.

Russia will be forced out of its recent enclave strategy sooner than later. Diplomacy without military leverage will not result in security or sovereignty as the Russians hope.

Posted by: Red Ryder | Jan 10 2018 16:19 utc | 18

Carl at 7

Trump the Isolationist. He's gone.

Trump to enrich the MIC further with increased nuclear weapons development and then break out the nukes first in response to conventional weapons attacks.

Use of nukes to be in response to an attack on "critical infrastructure".

In other words, any road, bridge, water tower, airstrip, utility, drainage ditch.

In other words, a wide-open interpretation. Carte Blanche.

What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by: fastfreddy | Jan 10 2018 16:42 utc | 19

The first bigger map has a wrong URL and should be so withouth the 2 a's.

I think it's not that the US invaders and their SDF grunts are having troubles clearing the area of Daesh but that a lot less resources are made available now that they lost the race to Abu Kamal and the US needs an official pretense to stay in Syria and occupy the area which is completely illegal under international law. Without Daesh there would be even less reason and the one given would stick even less.

Posted by: xor | Jan 10 2018 17:10 utc | 20

@13 plenty of snow in the Sahara now - that should help the water situation a little

Posted by: xLemming | Jan 10 2018 17:14 utc | 21

I don't want to sound OT but China has announced that they are thinking of stopping purchase of US Treasuries....and the markets are responding.

In the bigger picture of goings on I think this will have a significant impact on US MIC activities everywhere, including Syria.

IMO, China has just cleared its throat and said, "Its all about global finance and I have big cards to play NOW"

Thanks for the quality posting about progress in Syria b I just think that global focus may now shift to the power levers that fund ongoing US presence in the ME/Syria.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Jan 10 2018 17:41 utc | 22

21 xLemming


I don't know if you follow weather much, but a great site to monitor is nullschool weather. It collects the weather data from all over the planet from satellites, runs it through super computers and gives about 35 overlays of weather, pollution, and ocean currents in one animation for any point on planet that is only 3 hours old. Not only is it incredibly useful, but it is some of the best free eye candy I've found. Additionally, it allows an individual to monitor the entire planet's weather patterns.

One thing I've been watching over the past two years is how the jets streams have become much more wavy, or broken, due to a melting Arctic. Inasmuch as the jet streams drive precipitation patterns, the location of storms and droughts have become much more unpredictable, and result in much more freakish weather such as snow in the Sahara, a constant drought in the western US, icy cold weather on the US East Coast, etc.

Under old normal conditions the jet streams ran pretty much from west to east and acted as boundaries between Arctic cold air and equatorial warm air. With the differential of temperatures between the Arctic and Equator diminishing, as the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the jet streams have become much wavier delivering Arctic cold blasts to the tropics, and massive warm storms to the Arctic. Additionally the jet streams will now tend to get "stuck" in one position so certain areas will have prolonged dry or prolonged wet. With a runaway climate this will accelerate melting the Arctic more and as a wonderful side effect release massive amounts of frozen methane, which is 27x (100 year) to 86x (5 year) more powerful than CO2.


Posted by: Michael | Jan 10 2018 17:41 utc | 23

thanks b.. excellent coverage of what is happening in syria... unfortunately the usa-israel-ksa and company are not going to back down.. they will continue as they see the strengthening of syria as part of a larger problem of the strengthening of iran, or even iraq and other players that are not playing the same song book these players want.. i think the recent drone attack is proof of my viewpoint.. russia needs to make a move based on this brazen act and it needs to send a message loud and clear to not fuck with russia they way the usa-israel is doing at present..

Posted by: james | Jan 10 2018 18:18 utc | 24

SAA is pushing through to Aleppo following the rail line. Seems more important than a new road. The ISIS pocket is advancing in step with SAA. On a map, it looks like they are covering SAA's right flank. Perhaps the ISIS pocket is Syrians looking for reconciliation?

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Jan 10 2018 18:19 utc | 25

psychohistorian @22

China already reduced its UST holdings significantly in 2016 as capital flight accelerated. They then tightened their capital account window to stanch the flow.

This announcement is not anything new in terms what has already happened in the past. Wall St will be quite happy if the Chinese actually get rid of more UST as they need a lot of high quality collateral for all their speculative activities. There's plenty of demand for UST both domestically and internationally.

Posted by: ab initio | Jan 10 2018 18:26 utc | 26

Thank you, b. It is extremely important to hear that there has been developed efficient countermeasures to drone technology, which has been for recent years the means to assassinate individuals and even groupa of innocent people who simply congregate for weddings and funerals.

That's a new normal I hope will now become obsolete.

Posted by: Juliania | Jan 10 2018 18:28 utc | 27

I doubt that Russia will let this go unanswered. Look out for some "mishap" that may soon hit some U.S. troops or interests abroad.

b, would you please keep us posted when this happens!

Posted by: ab initio | Jan 10 2018 18:29 utc | 28

Buy a drone from Alibaba length 3.4m, wingspan 4m, Range 900 Km, carry load of 5Kg.

Posted by: harrylaw | Jan 10 2018 18:34 utc | 29

James Lake @ 20.

I'm in the UK as well and now find it quite alarming how the BBC shapes the news.

Recently on Radio 4 I listened to the BBC talking of a terrorist group related to or derived from Al Qaeda merely as "rebels", and giving the impression that their actions were part of a legitimate insurgency. That's not how 9/11 was described.

It's all too like the BBC's Ukraine reporting, in which the neo-Nazi component was played down and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Donetsk and Lugansk spoken of as legitimate warfare.

Crazy. And not only the PR. All those journalists and expensive editors and more admin staff than you can shake a stick at, and there's more fact to be got on some one man and a dog Russian news outlet. I heard recently of an old BBC hand describing the way the BBC changed after David Kelly. What with that and what with the material we now see put out by the BBC, I reckon that as far as foreign news goes we've got ourselves our very own Pravda on the Thames.

Posted by: English Outsider | Jan 10 2018 18:41 utc | 30

Were where the drones launched from? Launched from the sea would seem a bit to obvious that it was a US attack. Erdogan has been making angry noises about SAA progress in Idlib. His tame jihadi's from Mare' were in Washington the other day.
Southern Turkey or jihadi held Latakia near the Turk border seem good launch sites.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Jan 10 2018 18:45 utc | 31

The Syrian government have said the Kurds can have an administrative devolution type settlement within a united and sovereign Syria, this is probably ok with Turkey. The US partitioning plan will not be agreed by Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Russia or Iran or by many Kurds. Because it is landlocked the oil and gas could not be exported. Maybe a Berlin airlift operation could work?

Posted by: harrylaw | Jan 10 2018 18:55 utc | 32

When the new road to Aleppo is secured
Rather like PeterAU @21, I was rather puzzled by this expression, b, as the Syrian thrust is some 10-15 km to the east of the main road, not along any particular route except for the rail line. (Sorry if I appear to be complaining about your English, b, I am not, as I appreciate the difficulties of writing in a non-native language). They are of course heading for the Abu Dhuhour airbase, and to close the eastern pocket. If they succeed in linking up with Aleppo, I doubt that there will be a new better road to Aleppo, as there are only country roads, and the rail line is a dead loss, as not repaired, and even if repaired, not much used.

I guess they didn't head for opening the main road, because there are a number of major towns along it, which could take time to reduce.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 10 2018 19:05 utc | 33

paul@ 15

If you look at map sites such as Military Maps (Russian) you will see that the SAA has taken the T4 pumping station and the border between Iraq and Syria. This has allowed Iraq and Syria to open a transportation route between Iraq ans Syria and allow oil to be pumped from Iraq to Syria.

Given that the US backed Kurdish forces are surrounded and are a minority in the areas that they currently control militarily they will be forced to rejoin Syria. The US presence will be resupplied by air, which is expensive. The US faces the same issue now that Trump has cut aid to Pakistan.

Given the attempted coup in Turkey by the NATO trained portion of the Turkish forces and the cooperation between Turkey on the Kurdish problem it is likely that the Turks will not cooperate with the US backed Kurdish forces. Besides there are at least three major Kurdish factions along with other ethnic groups and any attempt by one of the Kurdish groups to create a Kurdish state will be opposed by the general population.

All the US can do now is continue to sow chaos and where possible to block the OBOR (BRI).
In case anyone failed to notice the US internal economy is in dire conditions with a huge addiction problem, increasing poverty, failing infrastructure and environmental decay. It is only a matter of time until the US implodes as ancient Sparta did. One cannot say that the US founding fathers didn't warn about going the way of Sparta by creating a military regime.

Posted by: Krollchem | Jan 10 2018 19:29 utc | 34

@30 Peter AU 1:

According to Tass, the drones took off from one of the four de-escalation zones in Syria, this one being in Iblib zone:

"The ministry also said the drones that tried to attack Hmeymim and Tartus had been launched from the area of Muazzar, in the southwestern part of the de-escalation zone Idlib, held by the armed groups of the so-called moderate opposition."

Posted by: JS | Jan 10 2018 19:39 utc | 35

@30 Peter AU 1:

The Duran is also confirming this was the site of the launch with the clarification that it was from the Turkish controlled portion of the de-escalation zone

"Today Russia’s Ministry of Defence says is saying that the drone attack was launched from a Turkish controlled area in the heart of a so-called ‘de-escalation zone’ in north west Syria’s Idlib province."

Posted by: JS | Jan 10 2018 19:48 utc | 36

Maybe its time the Russians stop being so "nice" towards US war invaders and start shooting (back).

Posted by: Hannibal | Jan 10 2018 19:52 utc | 37


Maybe its time the Russians stop being so "nice" towards US war invaders and start shooting (back).
That would be very unwise.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 10 2018 19:55 utc | 38

JS 34
I would guess this is the place Mawzarah. The name Muazzar not on wikimapia search.
Syrian Civil War Map shows the area to be controlled by a group that is not part of HTS.

From the Tass article, "The ministry also said the drones that tried to attack Hmeymim and Tartus had been launched from the area of Muazzar, in the southwestern part of the de-escalation zone Idlib, held by the armed groups of the so-called moderate opposition.
In this connection the Russian Defense Ministry dispatched messages to the chief of the Turkish Armed Forces’ General Staff Hulusi Akar and chief of the National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan."

Be interesting to know what was in those messages.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Jan 10 2018 20:12 utc | 39

If i understand correctly, the rebels are somewhat collapsing in Idlib. I don't say more than somewhat as we have yet to see. This is not easy to understand, as they have Western support. They should be able to resist to the bitter end. But no, 70,000 refugees are running.

What is it? The population have lost confidence in the Jihadis?

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 10 2018 20:16 utc | 40

psychohistorian @22

China reduced their holdings of UST significantly in 2016 as capital flight accelerated. They then tightened their window. They've been doing this for sometime so nothing new here. The Saudis have done the same for a while.

If china actually does reduce their UST holdings further than just make an announcement, there's plenty of domestic and international demand. Wall St would love to have more high quality collateral for their speculative activities.

Posted by: ab initio | Jan 10 2018 20:20 utc | 41

@Laguerre | Jan 10, 2018 2:05:03 PM | 32
"I was rather puzzled by this expression as the Syrian thrust is some 10-15 km to the east of the main road, not along any particular route except for the rail line."

Yeah, there's this main road you mention, which is the M5 motorway. It's out of reach for the Loyalists, at least for now. The "new road" is a pretty direct link between Hama and Aleppo. It runs well west of the railway, exiting Hama exactly to the Northeast and leading into Aleppo from straight south of the city. If they can secure that road it should make transport much easier and safer. It still runs partly through ISIS as well as FSA territory, but hopefully the SAA will change that.

Just one of the many difficulties the Syrian gov. is still facing. I have to admit I’ve found b’s Syria assessments a bit too optimistic now and then, regarding Syria’s powers to overcome these difficulties. I think the army was depleted pretty badly, the manpower issue must be a nightmare to deal with. Regarding support from the air, it seems gov. forces are still well equipped with helicopters, but with jets it’s the exact opposite. Of those outdated models they started the war with, many if not most got destroyed. The fact that for combat, they have to rely on their fleet of Aero L-39 trainer aircraft as well says it all.

“It is high time to eliminate the Ghouta pocket.”

Amen to that! But again, manpower. They don’t even seem to have enough troops to tightly seal the area off. Supplies for the Islamists keep coming through, apparently. I’m guessing via Jordan, with much love from the US, SA and Israel.

I really hope that once the election in Russia is over, Putin will go back to increasing Russia’s military presence in Syria. It’s badly needed. Hell, Russia maintains a huge and wholly independent segment of airborne troops, something like 3 divisions. Haven’t seen any of those in Syria!

Posted by: Scotch Bingeington | Jan 10 2018 20:30 utc | 42

re Scotch Bingeington 40

The effective Syrian army is very small now, the Tiger forces and that's about it. They do quite well now, in what they're doing.

The strategy with the isolated pockets has been to starve them out, as with Eastern Ghouta. Looks to be successful, but you have to accept rockets on Damascus in the meantime.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 10 2018 21:10 utc | 43

Details on the drones:

They had been crafted by experienced manufacturers using all kind of components, not buildt in a professional military equipment factory. However, the craftsmen have been experienced and used widely available professional components for these one-way drones.

Might well be that they got some support and know-how from Western services who took care of plausible deniability. owever, the timely monitoring of the attack and the Russion defense capabilities is suspicious.

I recommend for translation.

Posted by: Kassandra | Jan 10 2018 21:26 utc | 44

@ Red Ryder: quite OT for this diary, but you'd mentioned currencies (yuan, especially?) a few diaries ago, mentioning the SWIFT clearing system, but the comment thread had advanced to three pages or so, and i didn't give this essay for your perusal. escobar thought that the unstated, but underlying changes for russia nd china being named 'revisionist powers' and 'rivals',was this news:

'The Petro-Yuan Bombshell by Pepe Escobar; The new 55-page “America First” National Security Strategy'

...including this stunning game-changer, at least as far as i’m concerned:

“The decision follows the establishment by Beijing, in October 2015, of the China International Payments System (CIPS). CIPS has a cooperation agreement with the private, Belgium-based SWIFT international bank clearing system, through which virtually every global transaction must transit.

What matters, in this case, is that Beijing – as well as Moscow – clearly read the writing on the wall when, in 2012, Washington applied pressure on SWIFT; blocked international clearing for every Iranian bank; and froze $100 billion in Iranian assets overseas as well as Tehran’s potential to export oil. In the event Washington might decide to slap sanctions on China, bank clearing though CIPS works as a de facto sanctions-evading mechanism.", etc.

Posted by: wendy davis | Jan 10 2018 21:39 utc | 45

41 Laguerre,

How small is the Syrian Army? Are recruiting and training possible?

Even with the high amount of refugees, there should be enough young
men of fighting age to conscript. At least 2000 per month. Enough weapons
in the field to equip new soldiers. Pose as AQ and feed from the enemy.

See, the US, sorry "The Coalition", would have bombed East Goutha to rubbles
and there would only be rats scurrying among the debris.

But, the Syrians would like it as intact as possible. Tear gas is an option,
deafening noise of high frequency is another, specially against the young
(I assume most jihadists are young people). Drone attacks
are also possible. Imagination is an absolute necessity.

Could also warn residents of East Goutha that 48 hours after the warning
anybody staying in East Goutha is considered an enemy and shall be
put out of commission. Then start mortar shelling the place at night with
concussion shells intent to shock and awe whomever stayed to be collected
in the morning.

I realize that I am being an armchair general...

Posted by: CarlD | Jan 10 2018 21:41 utc | 46

if the US was in any responsible for those drones, it would also be very interested in watching the Russian response - the timing, success rate, etc, in order to also learn more about the russian equipment and capabilities in Syria for... uh... future 'reference'

form the RT news article, "...Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankin-Galloway, however, claimed that “those devices and technologies can easily be obtained in the open market.”....

Well I guess those "open market" technologies and devices can go both ways, right? Who could believe that there won't be blow-back against US interests or forces somewhere in eastern Europe or the middle east?

Posted by: michaelj72 | Jan 10 2018 21:50 utc | 47

Iran has been developing drone warfare for years, they have just reverse engineered the US Sentinel RQ170 they brought down several years ago. Hezbollah also have armed drones flying around Israel.One intercepted flying near Dimona. Oh dear.
"According to video evidence, the Lebanese militant group has used small, cheap unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, to drop bombs on Syrian rebels in northern Syria. A video posted on YouTube in August shows what appears to be shrapnel bombs being launched from micro-drone operated by Hezbollah".

Posted by: harrylaw | Jan 10 2018 22:12 utc | 48

b, the link to the "bigger" version of the first map has a mistake (an extra "a")

Posted by: claudio | Jan 10 2018 22:19 utc | 49

South Front's reporting the liberation of the Abu Duhur Airbase. Thus, the creation of a caldron to the east will soon occur.

I'd like to direct interested barflies to the latest entry at Syrian Perspectives where Ziad in the opening paragraph introduces us to the late outstanding historian at the Beirut American University Professor Kamal Salibi and "his monumental book: The Bible Came from Arabia." His life works brought acclaim even as he remained unknown--airbrushed--here in the West because of his very important hypothesis: Israel in Arabia. My first Yandex search brought me to a different Wikipedia page than what I got on my second search; although there doesn't seem to be any textual differences, the initial search result no longer appears, which is odd to say the least. The man appears to have been a classic Truth seeking scholar wiling to report the facts he discovered instead of supporting a political agenda. Is most controversial work, The Bible Came from Arabia, has become a very rare book, hard to find under $250; yet, his other two works in support of his hypothesis remain accessible and are discussed as my basic research into them has shown. Even more interesting is that he got his PhD in England studying under Bernard Lewis. I find it rather fascinating even if it's in the realm of esoteria given the reality of today's Palestine. Ziad always brings up the fact that today's "Jews" lack the proper DNA for any claim to Palestinian heritage.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jan 10 2018 22:39 utc | 50

Opps, Link to SyrPers article.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jan 10 2018 22:40 utc | 51

The massive weakness of Khmeimim is that it is overcrowded and does not have aircraft shelters, let alone hardened ones. If the drone attack forces Russia and Syria to build up their airbases, all the better for the long-term security of Syria. Likewise, Tartus needs better defenses, all the better to stand up to the Turkish naval buildup and seagrab. That's a price Russia will have to pay for a solid foothold.

Posted by: fx | Jan 10 2018 22:56 utc | 52

Canthama provides the latest from SyrPers; events are occurring rapidly:

"The cauldron is about to be split in two over night, forces form Khanaser is advancing toward the TFs lines and the issue here is that this is the very last bottleneck for rats to flee the southern portion of the cauldron.

"As soon as the cauldron collapse we may see the following situation:
1) 3,000 sq kms liberated
2) ISIS pocket will be over stretched, some 1,000 ISIS terrorists inside does not represent a massive force and even more stretched over 60-70 small villages, it will be very hard for ISIS to retain all the ground, they may retreat to better defended positions (higher ground). 5th Corp, Qalamoun Shield and some ISIS Hunters will feast on them, same group that destroyed ISIS in eastern Hama large pocket.
3) With al Hass plateau rat free, there will be massive amount of SAA/NDF/allies freed to focus on a much shorter frontline that will be a parallel line to M5, the concentration and firepower of the advancing Syrian/allies forces will be very significant.
4) Important to note that a lot of areas near M5 are not defended at all, no battles fought there since the total retreat early 2015, so al Qaeda and boyfriends/goats won’t be able to build sophisticated defenses there as they currently have in northern Hama for instance or western Aleppo. It plays well for the TFs if the High Command continues to push this offensive toward controlling all M5."

Meanwhile in Outlaw US Empire controlled Raqqa, no attempts at demining, clearing rubble or reconstruction of any sort occurring, which greatly contrasts with efforts in areas liberated by Syrian government forces--Assad must go for any such funding or activity to occur is the mantra from the coalition of the killers.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jan 10 2018 22:59 utc | 53

fx@50 Agree about Khmeimim airbase, I have a car worth £100 pounds in a double bricked garage with a 12 inch concrete roof. If its true the Russians have $65 million dollar SU-35's parked up, and unprotected, that is unbelievable.

Posted by: harrylaw | Jan 10 2018 23:31 utc | 54

Ok...about the sophistication of DIY or hobby aircraft...and what you can and cannot do with off the shelf stuff...

Some quite useless guessing and navel gazing going on here...

First off...some pictures of the craft that were commandeered by electronic means and landed safely by Russian specialists...

These are quite simple aircraft common in the radio-controlled [RC] aircraft hobby...

The aerodynamic design is quite rudimentary and the engine is a gasoline type [we see that by the spark plug cable]...spinning a simple wood two-blade prop...the wingspan would appear to be on the order of maybe five or six feet...

Buying or building something like this is a snap for anyone with RC experience...

The airframe is actually quite primitive even by RC standards...making use of styrofoam for the wing and tail surfaces...

The difficult part is getting it to fly beyond the line of sight limitations of the handheld radio-controller...

Beyond line of sight flight can only be accomplished by means of an autopilot system...this too can be bought off the shelf...such as this item...

The autopilot performs the same function as that in a full size you punch in the flight plan and the autopilot uses its gyroscopic sensors to maintain the aircraft in a stable flying position firstly...and on the intended route secondly...

These hobby autopilots may or may not be physically limited in some way because of the rules in the US about RC planes...especially autonomous flight beyond visual line of sight which is prohibited...

More sophisticated autopilot systems are also available...

Some hobbyists are even building their own autopilots for autonomous flight...using Arduino microcontroller boards...[which some of the ready made autopilots also use...]

All of the the accelerometers for the gyros that keep the airplane in flying position...the barometric pressure sensors for altitude...and the GPS/Glonass receivers are quite cheap and readily available for a roll your own autopilot...

So on this score it is in fact quite obvious that this type of aircraft can be built with off the shelf components...and many are doing so as a hobby...

But here again...the rules state clearly that one may not operate an autopilot equipped ship beyond visual range...

This does not mean that those autopilot systems cannot do that...they seem to be able to because the rules also explicitly state...

'Some autopilot flight-mode functions must not be operated at their maximum capabilities because they are contrary to AMA/FAA sUAS rules.'

Once the airplane is built the flight would proceed like this...the engine is started by spinning the prop by hand...

The handheld radio controller has a joystick that performs the same way as a control column in a full size moving it right or left deflects the ailerons on the trailing edge of the wing...initiating a banking turn...

Moving it forward or back deflects the elevator on the trailing edge of the horizontal tailplane...initiating an up or down nose pitch...

And a separate control moves the rudder surface which is on the trailing edge of the vertical tail or fin...initiating a left or right yaw of the aircraft...

There is also a power control for the engine...

The takeoff roll is performed and the airplane is stabilized in flight...the autopilot can then be switched on from the radio controller ...and it then takes over all of the aforementioned flight control inputs...and guides the course of the flight by means of GPS/Glonass...

That's really all there is to it...

The major difference between something like this and the remotely piloted large drones like the Predator, Reaper and such is that those are piloted at all times via satellite link...these are fully qualified military pilots btw...

Obviously these primitive craft do not make use of satellite for remote control...

The only piece of hardware that might be questionable here is the fusing device for detonating the explosive payload...

Obviously the system on board the aircraft must be able to determine when the target is reached and to then detonate...the satnav GPS/Glonass would give the when...but how that trigger would work might require a bit more sophistication...

Even so I would not rule it out...DIY ingenuity should not be underestimated...we have people designing and building quite sophisticated 3D printers and all kinds of microcontrollers using the Arduino stuff...

I would say that the Russians may be making some PR hay here...if they have some specific technical details that point to sophistication beyond what I have described here...they should release it so it can be evaluated...

Now about the Navy Poseidon aircraft that just happened to be flying around in the area at the time...well that certainly does not look good...

This is mostly an anti-submarine warfare [ASW] platform...but it doesd have some ground surveillance capabilities...certainly it would be capable of monitoring such a flight of drones...

The suspicion is certainly there that the US is perhaps helping to coordinate some of this stuff...perhaps giving some RC training to some of the so-called 'rebels'...

But the bulk of the technical capabilities of these kinds of craft could be easily done by a good RC hobbyist...

Also of note...GPS signals are extremely weak and easy to jam [even by hobby equipment]...the Russian military hardware to do this is much more capable and is deployed in Syria... the Zhitel EW system...

Posted by: FB | Jan 10 2018 23:34 utc | 55

Actually...looking at the photo of one of the UAVs at the top of the page linked previously where we have an office desk for looks to have a span probably closer to 12 ft or so...

Posted by: FB | Jan 11 2018 0:07 utc | 56

I am bemused by the back and forth on the drone attack. Let us say I were an unnamed Western "intelligence" agency. Would I suggest that "moderate rebels" stage a drone attack utilizing my sophisticated equipment that could certainly be traced to me? Probably not. Would I be able to advise on how to acquire parts for, construct and WEAPONIZE (the latter not being the typical thing at which "RC hobbyists" are adept) amateur-looking drones? Probably. Indeed, I note that local RC hobbyists can acquire much sleeker-looking drones. Finally, would I or RC hobbyists be better at calculating and coordinating attack vectors factoring in the diverse variables including payloads so as to maximize stealth and effectiveness?

Posted by: zakukommander | Jan 11 2018 0:32 utc | 57

@19 -- "Trump the Isolationist. He's gone."

In terms of banking he never was isolationist.

"Trump waives criminal punishments for convicted banks, including Deutsche Bank, to whom he owes $130,000,000-$300,000,000" (link)

Posted by: x | Jan 11 2018 0:57 utc | 58

@ zakukommander...

I have already said that yes it certainly would seem likely that there is a helping hand in this...

As for weaponizing a model airplane...this is not that difficult in concept...

You can see that the fuselage is basically covered in plastic held together with tape...

A model airplane of this size could easily carry an explosive payload of perhaps several kg...I would say maybe three or four tops...

Payload is a simple matter of the airplane wing's ability to lift a total amount of weight needed...including a fair bit of fuel for a 100 km flight...that's why we see this airplane has a rather large wing surface area...

This would require some basic aeronautical design knowledge...but not beyond some RC hobbyists...many of which are practicing or retired pilots and aeronautical engineers...

Do some among the 'rebel' crowd have these kinds of skills...?

I don't know the answer to that...

Are they getting help...?

It should not surprise anyone if they are...

Posted by: FB | Jan 11 2018 1:35 utc | 59

@55 zakukomander,

John Robb's been writing quite a bit about weaponizing drones and suggested terrorizing the OBOR as a matter of US national interest. I can almost smell the pride in this piece on the Hmeymim attack.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jan 11 2018 1:37 utc | 60

Just a point.

Russia/ Putin will soon have a "freer" hand to up the ante in Syria.

In the next few months Putin will likely win easy re-election, and a few months after that Russia will host a (very likely) very successful Football World Cup wrapping by mid-July.

So in 6 months time the coast becomes clearer for Russia.

Looking further ahead, Turkstream is due to come online by the end of next year, let's say Jan. 2020.

I wouldn't be surprised if later this year Russia gives the Turks the "Green Light" for an Afrin "takeover".

If not later this year, definitely by sometime in 2020 - which has the added bonus of being in a US Presidential Election year... Upping the pressure between NATO allies Turkey & USA for a US Administration seeking re-election.

Posted by: Julian | Jan 11 2018 3:36 utc | 61

@ Jonathan...

I checked out this brief piece by John Robb...

He adds this at the bottom...

'...The swarm also appears to be remotely controlled, likely as a means to provide target acquisition and terminal guidance. This allowed defense units to hack them...'

'Remotely controlled' is highly fact I would say ridiculous...

This cannot be done with off the shelf RC airplane stuff...which radio controllers only work within line of sight due to the nature of the radio frequency...which is 72 megaHertz...there are 50 dedicated channels from 72.01 to 72.99 0.02 MHz increments...

This small slice of radio band is reserved for RC aircraft and this is what the radio controllers are built for...

This frequency is in the VHF band...[very high frequency] which is used for FM radio, TV as well as air traffic control communications with aircraft...and air navigation navaids for landing and such...each particular use of this band has a certain block of frequencies set aside for its exclusive use...

Aircraft cruising at high altitude can communicate quite long distances in this band but this makes use of high ground they are still line of sight communications...but can reach longer due to the antenna height and aircraft altitude...

Even flying in a small plane at say 3,000 ft you will be lucky to get good radio at a distance of 40 nautical miles...[about 70 km]

This equipment also uses more powerful radio transmitters and receivers...both on the ground and in the airplane...

So 'remotely controlled' is not going to happen beyond line of sight with off the shelf model RC airplane equipment that is much weaker...that's going to be maybe a few kilometers...

For radio comms beyond line of sight the HF [high frequency] band is used...this is a lower frequency of between 3 and 30 MHz...these can reach very long distances because the radio signals in this wavelength bounce off the ionosphere...

These are used for radio comms with aircraft over ocean routes...where there are obviously no ground antennas nearby...but they are notoriously sensitive and temperamental...due to the bouncing...

Anyway this kind of equipment is notsuitable for a flight of 100 is really for much longer distances...and would be very difficult for anything but an expert to cook up...

So this John Robb...who claims to be a USAF Academy graduate in well as an airline transport talking nonsense here about remotely controlled airplanes with off the shelf equipment reaching 100 km...

Like I said earlier...a well working autopilot will get this kind of aircraft to 100 km if it is designed correctly...but there is no remote control involved once the autopilot takes over...

Hacking into the airplane would not be that difficult by spoofing the GPS/Glonass receiver on board the feeding a false location signal...this is how the Iranians brought down the extremely advanced USAF RQ170 Sentinel UAV...

Posted by: FB | Jan 11 2018 4:55 utc | 62

US tried to use a swarm of Tomahawks against the Syrian airbase last year, but lost over half of them. I guess they would be interested in what tech Russia used. Now a small swarm of drones attacks the Russian base and just by chance a US surveillance plane is loitering in the area.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Jan 11 2018 5:04 utc | 63

@61 Peter AU 1

Makes sense. Force the enemy to move so you can read him. Probing by fire, it was sometimes called. The attack serves multiple purposes. So it fits multiple analyses. Russian MOD says it was foreign, despite the plausible deniability built in.

I wonder if we'll even see the Russian response - it depends what they want to find out, or demonstrate, I suppose. It's the ironic thing about Russia, the better it performs, the more its supporters are in the dark about what it's doing.

Personally, I'm glad to see this turn into insurgency warfare. Less people die, the hands of the doomsday clock stop and maybe even relax a notch or two, and the tricks become more subtle.


I read the analysis by Magnier and I can see why b recommended it. The piece by Bhadrakumar that Don Bacon linked @11 was equally good. And combined with the post by Ziad Fadel that karlof1 linked @49 we have a trifecta of superb analysis that rounds out b's summation, and places it all into global and historical perspective.

We've entered an entirely distinct new phase of the Syrian conflict, which is itself the crucible of a much larger regional conflict, and ultimately of course a global and perhaps even civilizational conflict.

This is the time of patience now, and those who are not patient will not meet the demands of this time, not on the battlefield, and not here on the sidelines - IMHO.

Posted by: Grieved | Jan 11 2018 6:59 utc | 64


Guess I should have recapped those links: Magnier, Bhadrakumar, Fadel.

Posted by: Grieved | Jan 11 2018 7:08 utc | 65

Turkey is more plausible as the instigator of drones because they have the best control of what goes to Idlib-stan. Recently Erdogan was making pretty hostile comments against Assad, and he is unhappy with the offensive that aims to cut 1/3 of the Idlib-stan away.

On the ground, both sides have limited number of mobile forces capable of serious attacks, and on Idlib-stan side, the leadership of such forces is fractured. Some decent counter attacks were launched in the last 24 hours, the advance of Tigers onto Abu Al-Duhur was repelled and there was an attack on the west flank of the salient that changed the control of two villages, if temporarily. This attack is ongoing. OTOH, Tigers are the best of SAA, of second-best are still quite good. Defense of Khanasser highway seem to consist of "third-best" and a quick reaction force that liquidates any breaches through third-best defenses. Now these "second-best" attack to split the east lobe of Idlib-stan into southern and northern parts, and they made impressive progress. That makes a real dilemma for the defenders how to allocate forces: Tigers on their west side, ISIS on their south, and Khanasser forces on the east (they were described as "SAA-led").

Strangely enough, ISIS pocket so far avoided attacks on SAA, but one was also reported in the last 24 hours. This is a multi-way war theater.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 11 2018 13:07 utc | 66

By "salient" I mean the territory conquered by Tiger offensive, with east and west flanks defended by a combination of "second-best" forces. b changed the adjective for that offensive from to "importent". That should be caught by a spell checker.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 11 2018 13:14 utc | 67

Posted by: Jonathan | Jan 10, 2018 8:37:24 PM | 60

John Robb's been writing quite a bit about weaponizing drones and suggested terrorizing the OBOR as a matter of US national interest.

As they say, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

BTW, does the United States still have asylums? I only ask 'cos the morons seem to be running the government, the imbeciles seem to be running the Pentagon and CIA while the idiots populate the Washington think tanks.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jan 11 2018 13:18 utc | 68

Oh, and another thing? Does the United States have anything like the Pantsir? They used to have mobile radar-controlled autocannons but I think they were scrapped as being obsolete in the brave new world of air supremacy. I'd be interested to know how effective an F-22 or F-35 would be against a swarm of these drones.
Actually I doubt the United States military would be so stupid as to organize an operation like this because it lays bare major issues they would have with such an attack. On the otherhand the idiots at the CIA are stupid and arrogant enough to do something like this and tell the USN that it would be worth their while to have a Posiden lurking in the area.

I have to add that I'm a bit puzzled that it was a USN Boeing P-8 Poseidon that was used given it's designed for "anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and shipping interdiction, along with an early warning self-protection (EWSP) ability". I would have expected it to be something like the USAF Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS. I suppose a naval aircraft flying over the Mediterranean is a bit more deniable.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jan 11 2018 13:41 utc | 69

Dear paul: "the us has a stronghold in Syria"
Pls tell us how many inhabitants does this kurdish piece of land have and how much percent it is of Syrian population.
Then clarify us how can Turkey with borders to its west will
behave towards the existence of the kurdish/uncle sam stronghold...
And how could washington prevent russians & turks to collude on this stupid move.

Posted by: augusto | Jan 11 2018 15:25 utc | 70

>>>> FB | Jan 10, 2018 11:55:33 PM | 62

...which radio controllers only work within line of sight due to the nature of the radio frequency...

The P-8 Poseidon would have line of sight to the drones.

Also, launching the drones near the air base would have been difficult but positioning someone close to the base with a radio controller would be quite easy given that they can get within mortar range easily enough. So the drones are launched in Idlib with a local radio controller providing "terminal guidance" is possible.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jan 11 2018 15:41 utc | 71

Meanwhile over the other side of Idlib, the SAA have focused their attack on HTS and cutting off a large chunk of HTS controlled territory from the Idlib pocket. As usual the idiots of al Zinki, Ahrar al-Sham, TiP, FSA, etc. decide to attack the SAA even though the de-confliction agreement should prevent it. So, now the Russians will bomb al Zinki, Ahrar al-Sham, etc and the western MSM such as the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. will overlook the terrorists' breach,and blame it all on Russia and Assad. The sooner the terrorists and all their supporters are "removed from the pages of history" the better.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jan 11 2018 15:49 utc | 72

Ghost Ship @ 71...

Yes...the Poseidon would have been within line of sight to the drones even from a long distance...

This is a good point...

Being an ASW ship doesn't mean the P8 can't carry all kinds of additional gear on board as's a Boeing 737 after all...with plenty of room on board...

This brings up the possibility that the P8 'could' conceivably have been carrying radio transmitters working in the 72 MHz band and able to remotely control the UAVs...

These transmitters would need to be much more powerful than off the shelf RC airplane transmitters which are limited to just 0.75 watt power by the FCC...

By comparison a passenger jet VHF radio is 25 watts...and ATC [air traffic control] radios are from 25 to 100 W...

It would not be difficult for any radio engineer to build a custom radio set in the 72 MHz band that could be as powerful as you want...25 W would be plenty to reach well over 100 km at an altitude a P8 would fly at...

The antenna would be quite small and could even be inside a flying aircraft...similar to the small handheld backup VHF radios used by private pilots...

However...and this is a big one...

Doing something like this would be sure to be picked up instantly by the Russians...who are monitoring every single radio blip over Syria and beyond...

This kind of thing could not be denied...

We recall the incident in Syria in October 2016 where the Russians identified two Belgian F16s flying out of Jordan that bombed a village near Aleppo...

The problem was that the US side did not notify the Russians of the flight in advance as per the deconfliction rules...

Brussels denied the flight ever took place...but the Russians even had the airplanes' tail numbers...which is the real shocker...

This info is only available to 'friendlies' by means of the warplane's IFF [identification friend or foe] transponder...which transmits an encrypted radio code...

Friendly aircraft can thus identify the plane...but adversaries cannot...[although they can hear the transmissions]...

It is still a mystery as to how the Russians managed to do this...but they made a big diplomatic kerfuffle over it and even presented the proof to the one must assume that they did in fact manage to do this...

This gives an important clue as to the Russians' capability in the electronic warfare sphere...

Considering would seem idiotic that the Americans would try something like controlling that flight of terrorist UAVs from one of their would be easily proven as a hostile act against Russian forces...the repercussions would be significant...

As for the possibility of having some terrorists near Hmeimim and Tartus with off the shelf RC transmitters...well...this could of course happen...but one would assume such infiltrators could not get very near those facilities...and those weak transmitters might not be up to the job from a distance of more than a few km...

In any is not autopilot equipped homemade UAV like this could quite easily do what these did...

Posted by: FB | Jan 11 2018 17:21 utc | 73

According to this article, Putin is saying Turkey had nothing to do with the drone attack.
..."There were provocateurs there but they were not Turks, we know who was it was… We know, how much and whom they have paid for this provocation," Putin said...
..."Concerning the attacks, we have no doubts that they had been well prepared, we know when and where these drones were transferred, as well as the number of drones," Putin added...

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Jan 11 2018 19:24 utc | 74

@65 Txs Grieved for the links..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 12 2018 5:01 utc | 75

Five years of the killing of the University of Aleppo where the "moderates" murdered hundreds of students. R.I.P.

Posted by: elsi | Jan 15 2018 23:35 utc | 76

Hi Elsi...

I just saw your reply to me on the Seventeen Moments thread and tried to post a reply there but it is not coming up...

I think this happens when there are a lot of hyperlinks in the message...

I tried just now to post it here too...but again it is not working...

PS: I know you aren't talking to me anymore...but I will still talk to you...

Posted by: FB | Jan 16 2018 20:15 utc | 77

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