UPDATE 11 December 2016: Thanks to volunteer translators, the video showing spetsnaz operations in and around Aleppo has been updated with English subtitles (click on the CC button for ENG). Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch. - JWS
— The War Nerd (@TheWarNerd) December 11, 2016
“The jihadi scum now hold Palmyra City. OK . IMO what R+6 should do is get on with the job at Aleppo, and then move enough force to Palmyra to process more jihadis into fertilizer. - Col. Patrick Lang, USA (Ret)”
— Rogue Money (@theroguemoney) December 10, 2016
^2/2 US-led "anti-ISIS" & anti-Syria coalition - w/out any warning or airstrikes. Again.
— Mark Sleboda (@MarkSleboda1) December 12, 2016
“Following the devastating loss of Palmyra on Sunday, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) set up a new defensive line a few kilometers west of the famed city while exploring a potential counter-offensive.
Despite being heavily outnumbered, with some 1,000 government troops against an estimated 4,000-5,000 invading ISIS militants, several hundred additional Syrian soldiers arrived on Sunday afternoon in order to stiffen the SAA’s defenses and boost morale.
The new defensive line was reinforced exclusively by the ‘Qalamoun Shield’, a largely tribal faction of the Syrian Armed Forces which has its roots in the mountainous Damascus countryside. This unit will join elements of the SAA’s 11th Division, 18th Division, the National Defence Forces (NDF) and ‘Shaheen Group’ (Tiger Forces branch).”
— maytham (@maytham956) December 12, 2016
When the Russian forces pulled out of the city less than 48 hours before it fell to an assault by an estimated 4,000 Daesh terrorists, questions about Moscow's commitment as well as the poor fighting prowess of the local Syrian National Defense Force (NDF) militias tasked with holding the city emerged in a blame game. It seems hardly anything in the way of minefields, or (inexcusably lacking) concrete hedgehog barriers to slow oncoming vehicles, or pre-sighted artillery with mortars or Kornet anti-tank missile launchers trained on the main highway ready to blast Daesh Toyota technical pickups or VBIEDs posed serious obstacles to the Daesh advance (though a numerically inferior force did hold back a superior attacking group for at least three days, more than enough time for reinforcements to be sent from Aleppo).
Better yet, the defenders of Palmyra should've been equipped with multiple drones dialed in to artillery that could be used to lay down surprise arty or cluster rocket barrages, including at night, to slaughter Daeshbags approaching the city across open ground. Unfortunately the NDF seemed less well equipped or trained to deal with the armored suicide truck threat than their Iraqi PMU counterparts, who have received enough longer range RPGs and ATGMs to set off many premature detonations for many a 72 virgin seeking Daesh mother-truckers.
One Russian journalist who covers Syria suspects a cynical 'deal' was struck between Putin and Erdogan: the Turks don't interfere with Russian-backed Syrian forces taking Aleppo, and in return the Turkish Army gets to push into the Aleppo suburb of Al-Bab, as Daesh once again shows remarkable fighting spirit against only those forces neocons wish to see defeated, while melting away against the NATO member Turks and their 'moderate' jihadi proxies from Jarablus to Al-Bab. Amazing isn't it, how even while being slowly strangled in Mosul ISIS can spare thousands of men and dozens of tanks, armored vehicles and suicide VBIEDs to achieve somebody's goal of embarrassing Moscow and Damascus?
— Ivan Sidorenko (@IvanSidorenko1) December 11, 2016
The Russia Analyst would dispute this theory, as well as claims that the Russians wanted to teach Assad a lesson as to how reliant his military remains on them for intelligence, firepower and combat coordination (why would such a 'lesson' be necessary after the costly victory at Aleppo?). Instead, we think that this was a classic screw up on the Syrians part, with some surprise, sophisticated intelligence (which likely required ELINT/SIGINT 'help' to Daesh from 'you know who'), and maybe even (from some corners of the alt-media) weather modification to hinder flight operations thrown in. Certainly, whenever Russia has achieved some major success, a major strike or terrorist attack against Russian citizens or interests has occurred.
During the 2008 Olympics, Mikhail Saakashvili ordered Georgian troops to respond to a minor skirmish with Russian backed South Ossetian fighters by launching a major offensive which failed to close the Roki Tunnel, leading to a crushing Russian counterattack. During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which were relentlessly denigrated via an orchestrated smear campaign in the (post)Western media, the dirty deep state if not the State Department and CIA directly executed a coup d'etat overthrowing a Russia friendly elected government in Kiev. Then there was the alleged ISIS bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268, carrying a planeload of Russian tourists from Egypt, only weeks after Moscow infuriated the (post)Western dirty US/UK Deep State by bombing their pet jihadis. Furthermore, just days after Egyptian president and former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced Egypt's solidarity with Libya, Syria and Iraq against ISIS and other jihadist terrorists, St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in downtown Cairo gets bombed.
Fortunately, while Palmyra has a high propaganda value for the Islamic State and (post)Western detractors of Russia's campaign to liberate it last March, the War Nerd is correct: it does not represent a decisive achievement for the super terrorist army. If anything, by lengthening ISIS' supply lines and drawing manpower away from the siege of Deir Ez Zor where ISIS has been stoned by fierce SAA resistance for two years, the Daeshbags have committed their own version of Adolf Hitler's 1944-45 blunder in the Ardennes (which also involved plenty of meth-amphetamines for the teen aged shock troops dying for Wotan and the Fuehrer rather than Allah). As General Patton said at the time, now that they've come out of their Siegfried line we can kill the sons of bitches from three directions. A similarly ruthless Russian commander should hit Palmyra's flanks, cut the city off from resupply, and then kill or compel the surrender of as many Daeshbags trapped in it as possible.
Since very few civilians returned to Palmyra after the city was liberated by the SAA and Russian special forces in the spring, the Russian Air Force (RuAF) now has an opportunity to fry Daeshbags packed into Palmyra's quarters with incendiary thermite bombs. The last time we checked, no matter how badass Mikey D. Weiss thinks ISIS is, they and their Toyota pick ups burn at 800 degrees just like everybody else. Nor did the 'spoils' that Daesh bragged about seizing from the Palmyra attack add up to much, as the SAA was able to withdraw their technicals if not a few obsolete T-55 tanks in good order. We certainly hope that the TU-214 ELINT aircraft will be active in the skies high above Palmyra and Tadmur on Monday, looking for native English speaking radio chatter and seeking to triangulate the locations of any Saudi or Qatari special forces who 'aren't' embedded with the Daeshbags and directing their most recent blitz.
Nonetheless, the embarrassing setback of losing Palmyra for at least several days to a couple of weeks exposes the Syrian Arab Army's main weakness: a lack of quality manpower after five years of attrition and at least 100,000 combat deaths. Which is one of the main reasons the Russia Analyst suspects ISIS is stepping up its efforts to intimidate the Egyptians: as we've reported in previous SITREPs, Egypt is the most likely source of Sunni Arab manpower to drive Daesh across the desert and liberate Deir Ez Zor. In the north and northeast of the country where Turkish-backed and U.S.-trained Kurdish forces clash, a very different picture is emerging.
In order to march on Raqqa from the north and northwest after President elect Donald J. Trump takes office, both the Americans and Russians will have to contend with the new Sultan of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Who is showing signs as ever of playing off all sides against each other while slowly seeking his own neo-Ottoman gains. Whether the Turks' pet 'moderate' jihadis of course, will be able to hold Al-Bab after politely claiming it from retreating ISIS fighters remains to be seen. The Kurds can certainly be armed with anti-tank missiles by either the Russians or the U.S. to inflict heavier casualties on the Turks if they overstep their boundaries, and despite all the talk about how Turkey has one of the largest armies in the world, the Turkish people's willingness to absorb protracted casualties inside Syria is not nearly as high as neocons imagine. But then again, neocons like Weiss pretend the Saudi sponsors of their beloved moderate jihadists aren't losing a war and control over their border with Yemen either.
Ace Mideast reporter Elijah J. Magnier's sources in Damascus say Syria's policy has shifted in recent days to allow the Turks to advance further than previously permitted, possibly in anticipation of the fact that under President elect Trump, the Turkish Army may join a U.S.-led march on Raqqa next year. Perhaps with a Trump instead of a Hillary in the White House, the Turks aren't expected to stay in eastern Syria on a permanent basis:
“Turkish Special Forces and tanks along with proxies of the Syrian forces (under the name of “the Euphrates shield”) mounted a large-scale military operation against the “Islamic State” group (ISIS) in the northern city of al-Bab. This significant advance was possible following a long debate between Damascus and its allies (Russia and Iran) prior to developing what they considered the most strategic and adequate plan for moving the main ground forces forward after the fall of Aleppo. Only less than 5 percent of land remains under the control of jihadists and their Syrian rebel allies, and their presence concentrated in a very small part of the city that being subjected to continuous heavy bombing. The fall of Aleppo and its return to Syrian government control is only a question of time.
But why was Turkey allowed access to al-Bab after being stopped at its gates for weeks?
From a well informed source in Damascus, Russia supported the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who wanted at all costs to stop his most hated opponent, the Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan from accessing al-Bab city and continuing towards Deyr Hafer, Assad lake and al-Tabqah to meet the US forces and their allies at the gates of Raqqah, the heart of ISIS. Assad was happy to close the road to Erdogan’s plan to annex al-Bab, especially after his bombing of Turkish forces last November which killed four Turkish men – despite Damascus’s denial of its involvement in the attack. The Russian-Syrian message to Erdogan was clear: you are not allowed into al-Bab.
But what has changed since?
Iran – according to the source – contested the Russian-Syrian plans by offering an approach different from the Russian-Syrian proposal. There is no interest in sending forces towards the northeast where the US is well established with Special Forces and military bases in the Kurdish controlled area. Moreover, there is no strategic interest in fighting ISIS at the moment because Raqqah is not supplied by outside support. It doesn’t represent a strategic priority”.
Iran expressed its willingness to despatch more new troops to Syria if necessary for the battle of Tel El-Eis, to free the encircled cities of Fua and Kfariya, and Jisr el-Shughur and reach the most important target: the city of Idlib.
A constructive discussion took place between the allies leading to the conclusion that “useful Syria” is formed of the main cities where the majority of civilians can live, even if the rural areas are not under government ‘control. ISIS, an organisation rejected and denigrated by the international community is occupying Raqqah. There is therefore no benefit in investing military means and men in fighting ISIS now when al-Qaeda and other rebels are receiving international support and attention. ISIS is doomed: it will be defeated once the map of control over Syria is clearer and complete. The Syrian map has begun to reveal itself: east of the Euphrates becomes the so-called American stadium while west of the Euphrates is the Russian – Syrian dominated area.”
What's clear is that without more manpower from Iraq, Iran, and Egypt, the SAA is overextended and can only execute offensives on limited fronts. This factor makes neocon punks like Michael 'Daeshbag' Weiss cocky enough to propose a de facto partition of Syria in The Daily Beast, with his United Arab Emirates (UAE) based Arabic translator (Weiss doesn't speak Arabic) if not handler Hassan Hassan joining in. As if President elect Trump is inclined to take advice from people who hate his guts like little Mikey...
“After winning the Aleppo battle the Syrian government will have some 35,000 aligned troops freely available to liberate those other areas of Syria which are currently still held by foreign paid Takfiris, This is a quite huge, experienced force and one can expect that most of the work still needed to be done to liberate all of Syria will be finished within a few months.
In Iraq the government forces are fighting the last Islamic State remnants which hold the city of Mosul in a slightly similar siege situation as it was in Aleppo. But the fight in Mosul is more difficult because up to one million civilians are still in the city and the ISIS fighter there are fanatics who do not shy away from sending hundreds of schoolkids as suicide bombers against the approaching Iraqi forces. Should such resistance continue it might take months to retake the whole city.
Luckily for Syria the city of Mosul is now completely enclosed. The original U.S. plan was to let the western area of Mosul open so that ISIS fighters could escape to Syria. The Iraqi prime minister Abadi stopped those plans by sending Popular Mobilization Forces to close the wide western gap.
The U.S. had already prepared the field for retreating ISIS troops to eventually take the city of Deir Ezzor in east-Syria which is held by ISIS encircled Syrian government troops. It would have thereby created the “Salafist principality” that it envisioned since at least 2012. The Iraqi move to close off Mosul, supported by Iran and Russia, has finally sabotaged this plan.
As that plan for handing the eastern Syrian and western Iraqi areas to some “moderate ISIS” has now failed, the usual “expert” suspects, starting with Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, now argue for the U.S. to occupy the whole area and to set up permanent military U.S. bases to control the oil-rich Syrian east and western Iraq. ”
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) December 12, 2016
According to Hassan and Weiss, Assad has given up on reclaiming the eastern part of his country dominated by the Euphrates River valley, even as the SAA garrison at Deir Ez Zor continue to fight like hell against the ISIS terrorists besieging them. Since Turkey has plenty of cannon fodder both of the Sunni Arab male and Turkish variety at its disposal, the Weiss-HH duo believe a partition can be imposed on the Syrians with minimal American troop commitment. Perhaps these idiot 'WahhabiZioCons' haven't been listening to what President elect Trump has been saying about decisively defeating Daesh and ending the era of unnecessary U.S. interventions overseas. Or maybe they really do think that merely shaving off some beards and lowering the black Daesh flag while raising that of the 'Free Syrian Army' will work in convincing the world that ISIS went away as opposed to merely changing uniforms. But we think Weiss and HH aren't factoring in how much Iraqi manpower will be freed up once the U.S. stops feet-dragging and helps the Iraqis take Mosul faster.
@RussiaInsider Thank you for this piece. Please direct all inquires about my GCC funding to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) March 30, 2015
— Kevork Almassian (@KevorkAlmassian) December 9, 2016
Like all the neocons, neither Weiss nor HH are privy to what President elect Trump and his closest advisers like retired DIA chief Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn or SecDef Gen. (USMC ret.) James 'Mad Dog' Mattis have planned for the ISIS 'caliphate'. Since neither the Saudis nor the Qataris that support Mikey's beloved jihadists have the stomach for casualties or ability to occupy the Syraq border region which Weiss and Hassan wish to claim indefinitely, the only non-SAA Sunni Arab army left to roll into Raqqa by mid-2017 with American or Russian troops is the Egyptian Army. And Egypt's commander in chief Gen. Sisi is not only tight with Flynn and retired generals like Paul Vallely, he also hates ISIS and is at odds with its supporters in Riyadh and Doha. If there is any large Sunni Arab force capable of convincing the tribal elders in the Syraq border region that Gen. Mattis knows well they won't be persecuted (even if they collaborated with Daesh), it's the Egyptians operating alongside U.S. troops.
— the Lemniscat (@theLemniscat) December 10, 2016
‘It’s clear Assad has won this war’ - former US ambassador https://t.co/3J8OuPfhLQ
— Navstéva (@Navsteva) December 12, 2016
Until President elect Trump takes office and begins to robustly implement a new policy, the dirty Deep State will continue to do its damnedest to blame or provoke Putin-- the Congress is currently trying to make any joint American/Russian military work, even against ISIS, illegal. Of course the bill contains a provision allowing the President as Commander in Chief to waive the law if national security compels it, and American national security most definitely does require at least some communication with Russian military personnel in Syria, if only to avoid air to air collisions or close calls. Still one cannot help but get the impression that the worst nightmare of Sen. John McCain and Mrs. McCain Lindsey Graham remains U.S. special forces and Russian spetsnaz posing for selfies together in a liberated Raqqa that has become the new Torgau.
Preparing for the funeral of Galina Mikhailova and Nadezhda Durachenko, two Russian nurses killed in Aleppo. pic.twitter.com/JC7lSPH0j2
— Nina 🐻 KGByzantina (@NinaByzantina) December 9, 2016
If You Are For Peace, You Are A Russian Agent! https://t.co/aW25F9OXqA
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) December 12, 2016
“The Syrian war is not over yet; nevertheless, its course becomes clearer with the determination of Russia to win the war regardless of any possible changes or complications. The death or removal of Assad becomes irrelevant to the course of events in the long-term future.
Russia won this round in Syria. If the newly elected President Donald Trump follows his declared policy to avoid overthrowing governments and to fight terrorism, it means the US didn’t lose. In this case, the Russian-US objectives will meet: this after the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and the displacement of millions of refugees, caused by the US interventionist “neocon” administrations throughout the years. When two superpowers fight in the Middle East, there are no winners in that part of the world only the destruction of the land and of people losing their lives and property. At the end of the day, Syria has become a territory divided between Russian and American influence and a platform for their dispute to settle.”
— Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) December 12, 2016
The Russia Analyst will have more to say regarding the increasingly hysterical whining of the CIA and the legacy media that work for them like CNN about Trump not blindly accepting their Narrative that evil Russian hackers swung the election against Hillary. But for now, we reflect on the costs of victory in Aleppo, including two female Russian medics, and remain convinced that the lives both Russian and Syrian lost in liberating Palmyra from the Daeshbags were not in spent in vain. The Daeshbags' meeting with the grim reaper will come soon, as will the exposure of their not so secret backers.
— 21st Century Wire (@21WIRE) December 11, 2016
Coming soon to Palmyra. All in black. A funeral march for terrorists. pic.twitter.com/WBi2zseCvg
— Nina 🐻 KGByzantina (@NinaByzantina) December 12, 2016