— Rogue Money (@theroguemoney) October 1, 2016
“President Obama has long refused to approve direct military intervention in Syria. And Mr. Putin may be assuming that Mr. Obama is unlikely to confront Russia in his final months and with an American election season in full swing. But with the rebel stronghold in Aleppo under threat of falling to the government, administration officials said that such a response is again under consideration.”
— Кристина (@LubimayaRussiya) October 1, 2016
As the Guerrilla Economist observed in the tweet above Exceptionalistan is not used to having its impotence when it comes to saving its jihadist proxies exposed to the world. Nor will it forgive the Russians for squarely accusing them without the previous caveats of sponsoring jihadist terrorists, including the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. Furthermore, it would appear as the Establishment panic sinks in along with Hillary's shriveling turnout among traditional Democratic constituencies like blacks in Ohio or Florida, that the urgency to do something in Syria or perhaps Ukraine is rising in the twisted minds of the dirty Deep State.
— Walid (@walid970721) September 30, 2016
The problems with what the neocon crazies in Washington may be about to attempt are manifold, and we have described them in Friday's Syraq SITREP 4 and many other pieces. When it comes to political will, there is a chasm between the Russian people, who are conservatively estimated to be 80% united behind Putin in opposing Washington's bullying short of nuclear war -- and Americans who can barely find Syria on a map being browbeaten into supporting yet another Mideast adventure. Only this time an assault with far graver risks than the invasions of Iraq or Libya, due to their being a technological peer level competitor and nuclear armed great power in the way. As Zerohedge contributor Mike Krieger writes, citing Reuters stenography of White House threats to do something:
— Walid (@walid970721) September 30, 2016
“If full fledged war breaks out with Russia, it’s very likely to begin in Syria. The only good news here is I doubt Obama will begin any major escalation with only a few months left in his Presidency.
The bad news is that if Hillary Clinton is elected President, all hell is likely to break loose in short order.”
— Syria Today (@todayinsyria) September 30, 2016
If the nightly news which hardly anyone under 50 watches in America anymore leads off with the horrors of east Aleppo civilians under Russian and Syrian air force bombardment, what it does not do is admit the slightest possibility that American intervention would cost more than planes and pilots. It would also risk perhaps the most intangible and fragile of things still propping up Exceptionalistan's Empire of Chaos: the aura of U.S. military invincibility that was painstakingly constructed during the Reagan and Bush 41 years after Vietnam. Because while the U.S. military is indeed capable of bombarding the 6,000 strong Russian contingent in Syria and clearing Russian jets from the skies, it isn't clear that it could do so without losing scores of aircraft and with 100s of American soldiers on the ground from Syria to Iraq getting killed by massive Russian and Iranian retaliation.
As my friend The Saker reports:
“Once the US comes to realize that its policy sending MANPADs to Syria did not work, it will have only one last card to play: attempt to impose a no-fly zone over Syria.
The good news is that judging by this exchange, US generals understand that any such US move would mean war with Russia. The bad news is that the Neocons seem to be dead-set on exactly that. Since such an event has now become possible, we need to look at what exactly this would entail.
The way the US doctrine mandates to impose a no-fly zone is pretty straightforward: it begins with an intensive series of USAF and USN cruise missile strikes and bombing raids whose aim is to disable the enemy air defenses and command and control capabilities. At this stage heavy jamming and anti-radiation missile strikes play a key role. This is also when the Americans, if they have any hope of achieving a tactical surprise, will also typically strikes at enemy airbases, with a special emphasis on destroying landed aircraft, runways and fuel storage facilities. This first phase can last anything between 48 hours to 10 days, depending on the complexity/survivability of the enemy air defense network. The second phase typically includes the deployment of air-to-air fighters into combat air patrols which are typically controlled by airborne AWACS aircraft. Finally, once the air defense network has been destroyed and air supremacy has been established, strike fighters and bombers are sent in to bomb whatever can be bombed until the enemy surrenders or is crushed.
In Syria, this ideal scenario would run into several problems.
First, while there are only a few S-400/S-300 systems in Syria, the US has never had to operate against them, especially not against the Russian version of these formidable systems. Worse, Russia also has very long range radars which will make it impossible for the USA to achieve a tactical surprise. Last but not least, Russia also has deployed powerful electronic warfare systems which are likely to create total chaos in key US command, control, communications and intelligence systems.
Second, these S-400/S-300 systems are mostly located on what is legally “Russian territory”: the Khmeimim airbase and the Slava-class or Kuznetsov-class cruisers off the Syrian coast. The same goes for the key nodes of the Russian communications network. If the Americans were crazy enough to try to hit a Russian Navy ship that would open up the entire USN to Russian attacks.
Third, while Russia has deployed relatively few aircraft in Syria, and while even fewer of them are air-to-air interceptors, those which Russia has deployed (SU-30SM and SU-35) are substantially superior to any aircraft in the US inventory with the possible exception of the F-22A. While the US will be able to overwhelm the Russians with numbers, it will be at a steep cost.
Fourth, the use of USAF AWACS could be complicated by the possibility that the Russians would decide to deploy their anti-AWACS very-long range missiles (both ground launched and air launched). It is also likely that Russia would deploy her own AWACS in Iranian airspace and protect them with MiG-31BMs making them a very difficult target.
Fifth, even if the USA was somehow able to establish something like an general air superiority over Syria, the Russians would still have three formidable options to continue to strike Daesh deep inside Syria:
1) cruise missiles (launched from naval platforms of Tu-95MS bombers)
2) SU-34/SU-35 strike groups launched from Russia or Iranian territory
3) supersonic long range bombers (Tu-22M3 and Tu-160). It would be exceedingly difficult for the US to try to stop such Russian attacks as the USAF and USN have not trained for such missions since the late 1980s.
Sixth, even a successful imposition of a no-fly zone would do little to stop the Russians from using their artillery and attack helicopters (a difficult target for fixed-wing aircraft to begin with). Hunting them down at lower altitudes would further expose the USAF/USN to even more Russia air defenses.
Seven, last but not least, today is not 1995 and Syria is not Bosnia: nowadays the Europeans don’t have the stomach to fight the Syrians, nevermind Russia. So while some European leaders will definitely send at least some aircraft to show their loyalty to Uncle Sam (Poland, Germany, Holland and maybe one 2nd hand F-16 from a Baltic state), the regimes that matter (France, UK, Italy, etc.) are unlikely to be interested in a dangerous and completely illegal military intervention. This is not a military problem for the USA, but would present yet another political difficulty.
To sum all this up I would simply say that if the Americans and their allies have a huge advantage in numbers, in terms of quality they are outgunned by the Russians pretty much at all levels. At the very least, this qualitative edge for the Russians makes the imposition of a (completely illegal!) no-fly zone over Syria an extremely risky proposition. Could they do it? Yes, probably, but only at a very substantial cost and at the very real risk of a full-scale war with Russia. As I have said it many times, Syria is smack in the middle of the CENTCOM/NATO area of “responsibility” end at the outer edge of the Russian power projection capability. Where Russia has tens of aircraft, the Americans can bring in many hundreds. So the real question is not whether the Americans could do it, but rather whether they are willing to pay the price such an operation would entail.”
What The Saker touches on only incidentally in his commentary on how U.S. NATO allies like Germany or Italy if not France would opt out of such a completely illegal under international law act of aggression is the Russia Analyst's main point: the question of will. Meaning Americans have been conditioned with the possible exception of the Iraq occupation to expect low casualty wars in which U.S. airpower reigns supreme and no sacrifices are demanded of them, thanks to an all-volunteer force. They are not ready for a war in which U.S. AEGIS ships thought untouchable get sunk in the eastern Med by ultra-quiet Russian Kilo class subs in retaliation for the sinking of the Admiral Kuznetsov, or even at a lower level badass American special forces looking up and realizing the jets and drones overhead are not friendlies and are dropping bombs on them. Nor are Americans prepared to find out weeks later that dozens of American servicemen and CIA agents who weren't officially in eastern Ukraine cities like Mariupol or Kharkov got incinerated by Russian air strikes in retaliation for Russian soldiers killed by American bombs in Syria.
In other words, the American people psychologically are not ready for war despite the massive propaganda blitz we've been seeing over the past few weeks of 'Russian hackers' and 'Russian aggression'. Add to that the fact that Vladimir Putin his recent interview with Bloomberg editor in chief Adrian Micklethwait hinted at a second Cuban Missile Crisis, and it's very likely the Russian contingent at Kheimmim could be bolstered with tactical nuclear weapons. We now know since the end of the first Cold War that the Soviet nuclear missiles and a few thousand Red Army troops in October 1962 also were accompanied by several dozen tactical nuclear warheads to defend themselves and Cuba from a massive American invasion.
Contrast this with the fact that most Americans are still thinking about economic problems, the 2016 election, or SEC or NFL football televised this weekend to what the many millions of Russians who still watch Pervy Kanal/1st Channel are being told: the Americans have gone crazy and are threatening to kill Russian soldiers and to send terrorists to kill YOU IN RUSSIA, perhaps as suicide bombers on the Moscow or St. Petersburg Metro.
Thanks to the remarks of Gen. Dunford which silenced the loudmouthed idiots of the Senate Armed Services Committee the other day, we still believe the rabid neocons and nitwits on Capitol Hill are bluffing about a no fly zone. The U.S. military is extremely reluctant to even try, judging by Dunford's testimony stating about a war with Russia, "That's certainly not a decision I'm going to make". The Russia Analyst and long-time RogueMoney readers may recall the Joint Chiefs under then CJCS Martin Dempsey being on the verge of mutiny, after Obama demanded that they draw up contingency plans for heavy strikes following the August 2013 East Ghouta false flag sarin gas attacks.
Today Russian electronic jammers (aka their battlefield 'off switch' capable of shutting down American radars and crashing inbound Tomahawk missiles) air defenses and fighter presence in Syria is far more formidable than anything Moscow could hastily deploy to the Levant in 2013. On top of that, there is a strong possibility if a U.S. attempt to impose a partial no fly zone is forestalled during Obama's lame duck period, that it won't happen at all due to China overtly sending SAMs or People's Liberation Army troops to stand alongside their Russian allies in Latakia.
— Nadia Al-Belushi (@nadiabelush) October 1, 2016
Iran also has the S300 batteries it recently purchased from Russia capable of data-linking to Moscow's more powerful S400 as well as latest generation BUK and Pantsir point defense SAMs in an integrated network. Thus by February 2017 not only could there be 12,000 Russian troops and 1,000 Chinese PLAN Marines in coastal Syria, but also more Iranian air defense crews and systems who will fire on U.S. aircraft -- even if Russian or Chinese units would try to avoid this until the last moment.
What is clear from Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov's remarks made this weekend is that any unofficial American combatants (read: al-CIA and MI6-eda types) not clearly wearing uniforms or identified as accompanying Kurdish SDF forces are fair game for Russian missile strikes and the Russians won't be held responsible for killing them if the U.S. has them operating alongside Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists. Recall that one of the most active Russian aircraft in the skies high over Syria of late has been the Tupolev 214 airliner bristling with electronic sensors designed to detect and triangulate the locations of enemy units -- a Russian counterpart to the U.S. JSTARS aircraft on a Boeing airliner frame.
One of the prime targets of the TU214R will be identifying any native English speakers on radios used by the Nusra or ISIS terrorists who may be identified as (post)Western intelligence officers or their Western passport carrying assets -- especially in and around the Aleppo battlefield directing shipments of arms and jihadist counterattacks (the Chinese contingent at Kheimmim may also want the RuAF to target CIA asset Uiyghir commanders using similar means). The TU214R ELINT planes, low earth orbit signals intelligence satellites or human intelligence were the likely means for targeting with Kalibr missiles the location of the suspected U.S./GCC Coalition base supporting the jihadists near the Idlib/Aleppo province boundary and the Turkish border.
The Russians have also updated their rules of engagement to give air defense commanders authorization to shoot down any aircraft -- whether from the American/NATO coalition, Turkish or Israeli Air Forces -- that threatens Russian forces or Russians embedded with Syrian units (for more on that Russian MoD announcement, see the Joseph P. Farrell video at the bottom of this article for more).
Once again, the bad news is the neocons apparently cannot take nyet or defeat for answer in Aleppo. The good news? The neocons do not have as much clout in the Pentagon as they think they do (as proven by the stand down of August/September 2013), and they are vulnerable to prosecution for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as unregistered Saudi/Qatari agents (acting as think tank mouthpieces for the 'moderate' GCC funded jihadists, and yes we're looking at you Charles Lister and the Brookings Doha Center) under a Trump Administration. Hence all their screaming about how Trump is Putin's Siberian candidate -- when one finger is pointed at someone else, four fingers are pointing back at them.
As The Saker says Syria in 2016 is a much harder target than Serbia in 1999, Iraq in 1991-2003 or Libya in 2009. the so-called 'white hats' as Bix Weir calls them or at least sane people in the U.S. military want no part of a direct confrontation with Russia or the quagmire of occupying parts of Syria with 'allies' of the 'Free Syrian Army' who hate us as infidel dogs and dream of suicide bombing American troops -- even as they complain of not getting enough MANPADs and TOW missiles from the traitors at the CIA.
All that's left in the next few weeks for the neocons to do is more cyber attacks blamed on Russia, some sort of false flag operation in Ukraine/the Baltics or a provocateured confrontation between American and Russian forces in Syria. God willing, cooler heads will prevail and the professionals of the U.S. and Russian militaries will prevent escalation should such an incident occur this October.