Battle of Syraq SITREP 13: Moving Toward the Syria War Endgame?

U.S.-Russian military to military cooperation in Syria has not only been discussed by LaRouche movement educator and RogueMoney regular Harley Schlanger, via his sources in Germany (where the American military has a large 'footprint') but also by retired Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst and U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang. Yet the big lie by the neocons and legacy media that Russia has done next to nothing against ISIS while the U.S. campaign prior to Trump winning the election was particularly more effective than the Russians' efforts persists:

Nicholas Burns said on one of the seditious MSM chatter shows today that Russia is not attacking IS in Syria. This is utterly untrue and a standard propaganda meme of the neocons, of which he is obviously one. Russian aircraft have been deeply involved in all SAA operations aimed to re-take Palmyra. Russian aircraft have been deeply involved in the defense of the Deir al-Zor pocket 200 kilometers east of Palmyra. Who does Burns think that the Russians are fighting out there in the east? Is it the FSA unicorns of fabled semi-existence that Burns thinks are besieging Deir al-Zor or who captured Palmyra a month or so back.

My sources inform me that US/Russia tactical coordination in Syria is now well advanced and effective.

I doubt that Burns is that ignorant. IMO he is merely an opportunist who hopes for a neocon restoration in US foreign policy. -- Col. Patrick Lang, USA (ret), writing at his Turcopolier blog


Why the Trump = RUSSIAN AGENT Screamers Are Staying So Quiet About Cooperation Between the American and Russian Militaries Against ISIS in Syria

It is not surprising that the 'Trump is a Rooskie agent!' haters have been so quiet about such US-RU mil to mil cooperation, even if they could try to use it as the latest 'proof' that The Donald is Putin's Siberian candidate. First, it contradicts their thesis that Russia isn't fighting ISIS, or only took back Palmyra for PR value rather than as part of a larger strategy to exhaust Daesh, relieving pressure on the Russian Air Force-supplied but besieged eastern Syrian city of Deir Ez Zor, where the SAA have been fighting ISIS for over three years.

Second, Trump's campaign promises to 'bomb the sh-t out of ISIS' and 'why can't we work with the Russians to destroy ISIS? Wouldn't that be a good thing?' are broadly popular with Americans tired of the deliberately slow if not glacial pace to Obama Administration's 'counter-ISIL' campaign. Third, Russian counter-ISIS operations in Syria have become a proving ground for Russian precision guided munitions, such as the ship and sub launched Kalibr cruise missiles, as well as medium and long range Russian aviation working with spetsnaz spotters on the ground to obliterate targets. Such combat skills for both spetsnaz and pilots could, of course, be used in other theaters. But the same holds true for US JSOC commandos guiding Coalition air strikes, which oddly enough, intensified against ISIS after Hillary Clinton's defeat and Donald Trump's election victory (even before Trump took office) late last year. Fourth, another reason the U.S. keeps mostly quiet about its cooperation with the Russians in terms of targeting or intelligence sharing is that, as in Iraq, there is an unavoidable element of indirectly cooperating with the Iranian and Hezbollah commanders who share operations rooms with the Russians, to the chagrin of a small U.S. ally in the southeastern Mediterranean. But more on that problem at the conclusion of this essay...

Endgame in Syria is Not Here Yet But the U.S. and Russia Are Quietly Working Toward It

Writing from Lebanon and citing his excellent sources in Damascus, veteran Mideast journalist Elijah J. Magnier believes Syria is headed towards de facto partition, with the Russians claiming the victor's spoils west of Palmyra while the plans for permanent American bases in northeastern Syria's predominantly Kurdish lands headed towards Iraqi Kurdistan move forward. However, the Syrian Arab Army's stronghold in the Euphrates Valley city of Deir Ez Zor which has stubbornly held out against numerous ISIS suicide VBIED and infantry assaults for years now is a stone in the heel of such plans. The last ditch effort to remove the SAA garrison or force it into a Dien Bien Phu-style attempted evacuation under continuous fire from the Daeshbags being the 'accidental' U.S. bombing of SAA troops in Deir Ez Zor under Obama's Russophobic lame duck Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The U.S. bombs enabled ISIS to advance and almost cut the SAA defended city in two, but with Russian air support and supply drops the defenders rallied and the Daesh terrorists were beaten back.

With the Deir Ez Zor front mostly static but in favor of the defenders now, the SAA advance east of liberated Aleppo approximating the previously discussed in late 2015 'race to the Euphrates' is also reducing by the day the territory available for a post-ISIS 'Sunnistan' that would adjoin a Syrian Kurdistan fully autonomous from Damascus and funded by Washington's Sunni Gulf allies. That is, according to Magnier, the subtext to Trump's puzzling calls for 'safe zones' that would absorb refugees otherwise fleeing to Turkey and the EU.

Trump of course, places the emphasis on the Saudis and Qataris paying for such zones while remaining conspicuously vague as to where and how they could be set up and by whom they would be secured, if not with the full agreement of the legitimate Syrian government. As LondonPaul has suggested, this vagueness on 'safe zones' is motivated by the same geo-economics as the Trump White House's harsh anti-Iranian rhetoric, which is to say Gulf Cooperation Council holdings of U.S. Treasuries (many since dumped) and assets in the United States. Certainly, the former colleagues of Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at ExxonMobil don't see the Administration's Iran bashing squaring with the reality of Houston-based Big Oil execs streaming into post UN sanctioned Tehran (to finally compete with their counterparts from Abu Dhabi, Paris, Moscow and Shanghai who've been there for years).

U.S. and Russian Tensions with Turkey Continue Over the Kurdish Question

While one can be optimistic, there are still two elephants lingering in the room as the Americans under CJCS Dunford and Russian Министерство обороны delegation led by Gerasimov meet in Ankara. One is the unresolved Turkish-Kurdish question, which Damascus has been willing to compromise with the NATO member Turks on in the mid-2000s, tacitly allowing Turkish special forces to pursue PKK allied YPG members onto Syrian territory. Yet that was years and tens of thousands of SAA soldiers' lives lost ago, attitudes among the Syrian people having hardened against Turkey and its massive support for 'moderate' as well as radical jihadists since 2011, even if Ankara has made some progress against Daesh. The Turks are seizing Syrian land along the border in Idlib province for their border wall, with Damascus well aware the wall's purpose is more to keep Kurdish PKK allied fighters from infiltrating north into Turkey rather than hinder the flow of arms south to so-called 'moderate rebels' Ankara still supports.

The reality is the Turkish military still fights Kurds far more enthusiastically than it battles its former allies in ISIS, who surrendered the border town of Jarablus without a fight at the start of the 'Euphrates Shield' operation and who were allowed to leave surrounded Al Bab by the hundreds in a partially negotiated surrender. As Magnier wrote a week ago about the Sultan Reccep Tayyip Erdogan's plans for a quasi-permanent Turkish occupation of northern Syria, minus the large scale presence of ethnic Turks to 'justify' it as on the historically Greek island of Cyprus:

It is clear that Russia is upset with Turkey’s new alignment with President Trump, which promotes the partition of Syria (with safe zones and a push towards Raqqah). It is for this reason that Moscow planned to cover the advance of the Syrian Army and to close the road on the Turkish forces and their proxies at the limit of al-Bab, ready to bomb Ankara’s soldiers and tanks if necessary. A new map is drawn now where Damascus will temporarily accept Turkish soldiers on its soil until the end of this war.

Damascus’ priority is to fight ISIS, al-Qaida and to disturb the Turkish-US plans in Syria. The Syrian Army will definitely support the Kurds and the Arabs in the northern area of Syria to make sure Ankara sinks into the Syrian quagmire and remains engaged in the long war. Any push of Ankara soldiers toward Manbij or Raqqah will not be tolerated neither by Moscow nor by Damascus.

There is real concern among the different decision makers operating in Syria about the forthcoming phase that is aiming to divide the country. When Trump speaks of “safe zones” it is another way of indicating that the US wants to establish a permanent base in Syria (US already have military bases at Al-Rmaylan (south east Syria), Tal Baidar, Mabrouki, Ain Eissa, Tel Abiyad and al-Hasaka with thousands of advisors). The visits of US officials, congressman and military commanders confirm there is more going on than meets the eye in the northern Kurdish Syrian area.

A second “safe zone” could indeed be the triangle Jarablus- al Ra’I- Azaz- alBab, occupied by Turkey. This Turkish triangle was possible only when Turkey expressed its fear of the “terrorist attacks” which jeopardised its national security. It was also a convenient plan as seen by both Moscow and Damascus for disrupting the Obama US administration plan to form a new Kurdish “state”, similar to Kurdistan Iraq, from al-Malikiya to Afrin. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s new aggressive position towards Iran and Damascus is therefore reshuffling the cards: once again Turkey is considered hostile. In the eyes of Damascus Tehran and Moscow, Erdogan is no longer a trustworthy ally, he chooses to join the US policy in Syria, wanting to have his share and not be cut out...


On the one hand Russia shares an interest with Turkey in not seeing the YPG dominated Kurdish territories of Syria become U.S. protectorates, on the other hand an American troop presence from Moscow's point of view is preferable to a Turkish one because U.S. tolerance of casualties from a protracted occupation under Trump is lower than the pain threshhold for the Turks. The flip side, as Elijah J. Magnier reports, is that Damascus has established a supply road that the Russians and Americans shared control of the skies over northern Syria prevent the Turks from interdicting through bombing. Meaning if the Turks persist in a Syria occupation and their support for anti-Assad 'moderate' jihadists funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Syrian Arab Army can supply the Kurds with Russian weapons like the Kornet anti-tank missile, turning the tables on the Turks who used to ship American CIA/Saudi-supplied TOW missiles by the crateload to their proxies from 2012 to 2015. As the Saudis have already found out the hard way during the last two years at war in Yemen, payback for arming the SAA and Iran's enemies in Syria has been a bitch, with U.S. supplied Abrams tanks and Bradleys getting lit up like roman candles from the Houthis missiles.

That of course, is the same fate the Turkish military fears, as confirmed by the piss poor post-coup combat performance and low morale of Turkey's Army displayed in the slow and costly Al-Bab offensive. Seeing the quagmire their Saudi allies are experiencing in Yemen and inside the Kingdom's porous southwestern borders, and knowing that the fighting prowess of the secular Kurds nearly matches that of the fierce Shi'a tribesmen of Yemen, any Turkish general or colonel not brainwashed by his own propaganda understands that a heavy footprint occupation of northern Syria is unsustainable. Particularly while manpower and resources are needed to fight the PKK on Turkish territory. Thus for Erdogan, the logical alternative to confronting either the Americans (and getting kicked out of NATO by the populist, temperamental negotiator Trump) or the Russians is on display this week: open talks in Ankara maximizing Turkish diplomatic leverage with both sides.

The Last and Biggest Elephant of the Syrian War: Will It, Like the End of WWII in Europe, Set the Stage for a Cold if Not Hot War Confrontation Between the 'Victors'?

During the 1943 Tehran conference between the 'Big Three' of Stalin-Churchill-Roosevelt, the general outlines of a postwar partition of Europe into zones of influence for the two superpowers was agreed. This deal was reaffirmed with further stipulations at Potsdam outside Berlin in 1945, after the crushing defeat of Hitler's Third Reich (though not without serious reservations from Churchill and the new more anti-Soviet American president Harry S. Truman).

This deal contained painful if not dirty concessions for both sides -- the anti-Soviet Vlasov Army volunteers who revolted against the SS towards the end of the war were sentenced to almost certain death, in return for the swift return of American POWs liberated by the Red Army in the eastern part of Germany. The British essentially abandoned their anti-Communist Polish Home/Allied Army allies' claims of sovereignty over Soviet occupied postwar Poland, while Stalin surrendered his support for the Greek Communists, who had been some of the most effective anti-Nazi partisans to a pro-British government in the historically pro-Russian if not Soviet friendly Mediterranean country. Similarly difficult concessions on the part of the Americans and Russians could leave neither side's 'deep state' satisfied with the outcome of the Syrian proxy War, to say nothing of the Turks, Saudis, Qataris and most critically, the Israelis who tried and failed to break the so-called 'Shi'a Crescent'.

The scenario of U.S. and Russian troops overtly 'linking up' in a liberated Raqqa along the Euphrates as they did in 1945 inside the town of Torgau is likely off the table, thanks to the overwhelming pressure by the Washington Establishment for Trump not to show any signs of concessions to Vladimir Putin. Yet as we've demonstrated above, under CINC Trump, quiet U.S.-Russian cooperation against ISIS is expanding, alongside Moscow's preparations to resolve the Ukraine question on its own terms if a hard or soft coup against Trump succeeds and Vice President Mike Pence (who according to The Saker's recently published interview last month with Catherine Austin Fitts of the Solari Report, acted as an unwanted by the Kremlin 'minder' on the first Trump-Putin phone call from the White House) takes office.

The paradox however, of Trump and Putin quietly defanging the neo-Ottoman ambitions of Erdogan and finally destroying the visible ISIS Caliphate is that the stage could be set for another major Mideast war. This time, as W the Intelligence Insider discussed on the Friday night March 3, 2017 RogueMoney radio program, Hezbollah's confidence in emerging from combat in Syria stronger than ever could provoke some sort of Israeli action precipitating a war bigger and bloodier than what occurred in the summer of 2006.

Given Russian air defense troops (very likely acting on strict orders from Putin) avoidance of engaging Israeli jets bombing rural Damascus -- so long as they do so using stand off missiles - both the Kremlin and the Israel Lobby-backed Trump Administration would be unlikely to prevent such a conflict from spilling over from Hezbollah's strongholds in Shi'a and Christian majority south Lebanon to Syria. The so-called 'safe zone' in southern Syria along the disputed Golan Heights that Israel has been trying to establish even where there are few if any Hezbollah or Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives have moved in recent months (after the IAF and Israeli special forces killed several Iranian generals with ambushes or well-guided from the ground air strikes) could also precipitate the conflict -- unless Russia and Jordan can act as an intermediaries to cool this front off:

The third ‘safe zone” is the south of Syria, along the Jordanian- Israeli borders. The area is under the control of ISIS (Khaled bin al-waleed) and al-Qaeda along with other rebels and jihadists. The US could participate with Gulf money in a military campaign in that area under the banner of fighting terrorism. It fits perfectly well with the “buffer zone” Israel was intending to establish few years ago. In fact, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would “never return the Golan Heights to Syria”. In establishing a new “buffer (or safe) zone”, Damascus will have to negotiate the return of this newly occupied land rather than the Golan. This plan would prevent the Lebanese Hezbollah from operating in the Golan area, particularly as its Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah considers that his war against Israel starts from Naqoura (the Lebanese southern borders with Israel) and extends to the Golan Heights.

“It cannot be excluded that Trump and Netanyahu want to bring Jordan into the Syrian swamp to keep Israel in the shadows. The US President is unaware that creating a buffer zone offers the perfect reason-d’être to Iran, Hezbollah and the newly formed “Syrian resistance” for carrying out attacks on Israel, and on whoever occupies the new southern area if that is the plan. A “Syrian resistance” mirroring Hezbollah was created a few years ago, equipped in the same Hezbollah fashion and trained to face Israel once the war settles down”, said the source.


The Fire Next Time: How Hezbollah's Acquisition of Tactics and (Iranian Copies of Russian Weapons) Technologies Will Make An Israel-Hezbollah War Even Bloodier for the IDF Than in 2006

Nonetheless, as the Russia Analyst warned W in our phone conversations, while Hezbollah can be persuaded by Tehran and Moscow not to retaliate for Israeli air strikes or assassinations that take out smaller arms caches or individual commanders, it will not shrink from a fight. And while most of the Hezbollah fighters engaged in Syria have been younger recruits of the hybrid guerrilla/conventional army's troops 'B team', the 'A team' and its IRGC allies have availed themselves of operational lessons acquired from Putin's 'Polite People' spetsnaz.

Even if the deal between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Putin holds that no advanced Russian weapons are to be provided to Hezbollah by way of the Syrians or Iranians, the fact is the best Hezbollah commandos have learned from the Iranians if not directly via the Russian spetsnaz how to operate tactical drones, how to engage in electronic jamming to take down enemy (ISIS) drones, and how to use drones to direct mortar or even rocket fire with deadly accuracy. As American military commanders and commentators admit, all of these Russian tactics have been used in the Ukraine war by 'combined Russian separatist' forces aka Donbass locals trained and supervised by the GRU with some fire support from Russian army units on Russian territory. How prepared are the Israelis for 'steel rain' or the shock of Israeli soldiers indoctrinated into their own invincibility when they realize the drones overhead are not friendlies but Hezbollah controlled Iranian knockoffs of Russian models? 

If Hezbollah's use of advanced but lightweight Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles came as a rude shock to the Israeli armored corps in 2006, how much more would Hezbollah taking down IDF drones and hitting Israeli artillerymen with counterbattery fire be? Or pulling Iranian knock offs of Russia's SMERCH multiple launch rocket systems out of tunnels in southern Lebanon and unleashing barrages containing cluster munitions capable of wounding or killing much of an Israeli armored/mechanized infantry column? These are the issues we raised with 'W' prior to his latest appearance on the RogueMoney radio program. These are the questions the Russia Analyst sure hopes Netanyahu's generals, and the realists of Mossad, ask Netanyahu before he goes beyond individual air strikes or assassinations to a general offensive or incursion into either the Syrian Golan Heights or south Lebanon. Barring some type of political scandal within Israel itself that brings down Netanyahu's coalition, the probability of a direct Israel-Hezbollah clash will increase, not decrease after the ISIS Caliphate is no more. Dates to watch according to 'W's latest RM cast are July into late August, coincidentally the 11th anniversary of the 2006 war.