Syraq SITREP 58: Mattis Vows U.S. Will Stay in Syria Indefinitely, SAA Preparing Dara’a, Quneitra Offensive

Syraq SITREP 58: Mattis Vows U.S. Will Stay in Syria Indefinitely, SAA Preparing Dara’a, Quneitra Offensive

NOTE: This is our 58th Syraq SITREP written for RogueMoney. Barring any major U.S. or Israeli strikes in Syria, the Russian Analyst plans to publish fewer Syraq SITREPs on RM this summer.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is preparing for a major offensive to liberate the southern part of the country from jihadists who serve as a buffer between Damascus southern outskirts and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. This offensive will be led by the SAA’s elite Tiger Forces commanded by Brigadier General Suheil Hassan (portrayed with Russian airpower art on the left) and the 4th Armored Division.

However, Islamic State remnants which have been attacking across the Euphrates River from territory nominally controlled by the U.S. and its Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies forced the SAA to delay the big push south. Syrian government forces have beaten back Daesh at Abu Kamal, a city that borders Iraq’s Al-Qaim which is the overland linkage between Damascus and friendly forces from Baghdad. SAA units also went on the offensive against ISIS in the southeastern Badiya Al-Sham region, killing over 20 Daesh terrorists near Sweida. But SAA fighting with ISIS units operating from American controlled territory continues.

Speaking on Friday at a NATO forum in Brussels, Defense Secretary James Mattis vowed to keep U.S. occupation forces in Syria indefinitely after the elimination of the remaining ISIS pockets along the Syrian-Iraqi border, saying a hasty withdrawal of American troops would be a “strategic blunder”.

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Syraq SITREP 57: Assad Tells RT in Interview U.S. Troops Must Leave Syrian Territory They Illegally Occupy, Israeli-Russian Defense Ministers Meet in Moscow

Syraq SITREP 57: Assad Tells RT in Interview U.S. Troops Must Leave Syrian Territory They Illegally Occupy, Israeli-Russian Defense Ministers Meet in Moscow

It was the first time in a long time that an interview broadcast on Moscow’s government funded channel RT made global headlines. But Russian journalist Murad Gazdiev’s question, “I’m Sunni [Muslim], Mr. President. I have relatives who went to Syria to fight you. To stop you killing Sunnis. The Muslim world is convinced that you are…” took a back seat to Bashir al-Assad’s statement, that this spring Russian forces narrowly avoided direct clashes with the Americans ahead of the April 14 Anglo-American-French strikes, and that U.S. forces must leave sovereign Syrian territory they have illegally occupied in the Levant.

The American response, coming in a statement from the State Department, was that Coalition forces do not seek clashes with Syrian or Iranian-government backed units in the country, but would use necessary and proportionate force to defend themselves and their Kurdish partners. Yet as the deaths of several Russian and scores of Syrian soldiers in clashes with Islamic State terrorists recently showed, Daesh remains dangerous across the so-called badiya or Syrian desert stretching to the Iraqi border, where U.S. forces have conspicuously failed to finish ISIS remnants off. Pro-Damascus protests against the American presence and low level insurgency against the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) Kurds’ occupation of historically Arab lands in and around Raqqa have also been admitted this week by The Washington Post.

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Syraq SITREP 56: Russian Casualties from ISIS Attack, Israel-Iran Negotiations Via Jordan

Syraq SITREP 56: Russian Casualties from ISIS Attack, Israel-Iran Negotiations Via Jordan

At least four Russian military advisers are dead and several wounded after an ISIS attack on a Syrian Arab Army position in a government controlled part of Deir Ez Zor province. RT.com reports the Russian Defense Ministry said 43 Daesh terrorists and six vehicles used by the attackers were destroyed. Additional details about the attack were not provided, but the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (one guy living over a shop in Coventry, UK) claimed that nine Russian soldiers died in the hour long firefight.

Prior to the fight this weekend, the SAA had been moving troops freed up from the defeat of jihadist pockets around Damascus to clean out the remaining ISIS remnants in the Homs desert. ISIS may have received reinforcements of its own from several hundred militants who escaped before the south and east Damascus encirclement. The likely response of the Russian forces will be more air strikes guided by spetsnaz units to hunt down the remaining terrorists. We can likely expect to see more Iraqi Air Force strikes on Daesh units in territory nominally controlled by the Americans as part of their temporary demarcation along the Euphrates agreement with the Russians. Moscow’s Defense Ministry is also likely to reproach the Americans for not doing enough against the common ISIS terrorist enemy, who noticeably leaves U.S. and French bases in the Kurdish dominated areas alone.

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Syraq SITREP 45: Israeli Missiles Strike Tiyas Air Base After Trump Threatens Assad Government Over Douma Chemical Attack

Syraq SITREP 45: Israeli Missiles Strike Tiyas Air Base After Trump Threatens Assad Government Over Douma Chemical Attack

Israeli missiles struck the Tiyas Air Base west of Palmyra in Homs governate around 3:30 Damascus time Monday morning, killing and wounding several Syrian soldiers. SANA reports that eight incoming missiles were shot down by Syrian air defense. The strikes were likely launched from over Lebanon, where locals reported hearing low flying jets. Israel's military would not comment, which has been its standard practice when striking targets inside Syria -- along with violating Lebanese air space. The Israeli Air Force (and possible sub launched cruise missile fired from the Mediterranean) strikes came less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump sent out a series of tweets Sunday morning, calling Syrian President Bashir al-Assad 'an animal' and blaming the Syrian government for a chemical attack in Douma, the last remaining jihadist-occupied exurb of Damascus.

Pro-government sources initially said the strike on Tiyas which killed at least a dozen Syrian servicemen was 'American aggression'. Undoubtedly since U.S. intelligence is shared with the Israelis that designation is true, for President Trump had vowed on Twitter to make the Assad government 'pay a heavy price' over the chemical attack, without any forensic evidence being presented of Damascus' guilt ahead of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting Monday afternoon. However, the Pentagon denied any U.S. strikes on Syrian targets late Sunday night, while releasing a readout of a phone call with French President Emanuel Macron in which Washington and Paris vowed joint action to address Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. The attack comes days after President Trump had announced his wish to pull American troops out of Syria and numerous legacy media reports that the Pentagon and his cabinet were pressuring the Commander in Chief to keep the Americans occupying sovereign Syrian territory east of the Euphrates River, with ISIS remnants as the pretext.

Now the question is -- will this largely symbolic strike be all for now in terms of military action by Washington and its allies, or will we see additional strikes that test Moscow's vow to respond and defend its servicemen embedded with Syrian troops from attack? Will National Security Adviser John Bolton's first day in his office be about starting a major if not global war?

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Syraq SITREP 44: Trump Delays U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Indefinitely, Amid Russian-Reported Rumors of More American Casualties from IEDs

Syraq SITREP 44: Trump Delays U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Indefinitely, Amid Russian-Reported Rumors of More American Casualties from IEDs

On Wednesday the Trump Administration made a predictable announcement -- despite the Commander in Chief's call for a withdrawal, American soldiers would stay in the war-torn country for the near future 'in consultation with allies'. Trump pushed against the Swamp, and the Swamp which includes the deep state pushed back and won the argument -- or has it? The overwhelmingly negative legacy media coverage of Trump's speech last week  to Ohio workers calling for other, unspecified powers to take up the burden of post-war reconstruction and nation building in Syria was nonetheless revealing. As they have many times since Trump's improbable election, Americans have caught another glimpse behind the curtain as to who actually rules in Washington -- and it isn't their elected representatives or President, not when it comes to abandoning the years-long and multi-multi-billion dollar failed investment Washington made in Syria regime change.

In Ankara-hosted talks between their leaders this week Russia, Turkey and Iran remain in the driver's seat in Syria with Washington delegated to the margins, as U.S. plans to use the Kurds to carve out a statelet in the northern part of the country lie in tatters thanks to the Turkish Army's intervention. East of the Euphrates in the badiya or oil and gas-rich desert scrubland where the Pentagon has been building bases, Arab tribes are reportedly displaying the Syrian government flag, and there are rumors (likely false) of roadside bombings and ambushes against American troops. Although these accounts picked up by Southfront cannot be confirmed, they seem to be mirror imaging of U.S. media propaganda that American forces killed 'hundreds' of Russian Wagner mercenaries back in February; alternatively they represent warnings to the Pentagon and the Trump White House that U.S. troops are far more vulnerable to Iraq-insurgency style tactics than Washington's promoters of occupying Syria have imagined. At the very least, members of Arab tribes bombed by the Americans during those early February clashes may be intent on revenge and can easily blend in with civilians while planting IEDs or carrying out ambushes against U.S. forces.

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Syraq SITREP 43: U.S./UK Casualties, Turkey Rejects French Intervention to Save Manbij Kurds from Turkish Occupation

Syraq SITREP 43: U.S./UK Casualties, Turkey Rejects French Intervention to Save Manbij Kurds from Turkish Occupation

Last week as President Donald Trump announced his intent to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in Manbij, killing one American and one British servicemen. The KIA were 36-year-old Master Sgt. Johnathan J. Dunbar of Austin, Texas and 33-year-old Sgt. Matt Tonroe of Manchester, England. The blast happened several days after Arabs had demonstrated in the Kurdish ruled city calling for a return to governance by Damascus, and after weeks of U.S.-Turkish wrangling over the northern Syrian real estate Ankara has vowed to seize from American-backed Kurdish forces it calls terrorists. The Turks have intimidated the French after President Emanuel Macron hinted at sending more troops to 'mediate' between Ankara and the YPG Kurds in Manbij. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also referred to the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu as a 'terrorist' after Israeli Defense Forces and police used live ammunition against Palestinians near Gaza.

The overall picture, as the British government's contention that an ex-GRU agent for MI6 and his daughter were poisoned with a Russian-made novichok nerve agent falls apart, and Trump looks for the exit in Syria, is one of the Anglo-American empire in disarray. China's introduction of the petroyuan and its appeal to a struggling Saudi regime allied to the U.S. and Israel is also creating not yet visible geopolitical aftershocks behind the scenes. As we've been saying for some time here at RogueMoney, the military feints and threats in Syria since Russia's successful intervention have been prologue to the geoeconomic game changer from China.

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Syraq SITREP 41: Chemical False Flags Fail, Gerasimov-Dunford Hotline Talks and Turkish Occupation

Syraq SITREP 41: Chemical False Flags Fail, Gerasimov-Dunford Hotline Talks and Turkish Occupation

On March 20 Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that three attempts by jihadists to use chemical arms in Syria had been foiled. The following day the commander of Russia's nuclear, chemical and biological defense troops Igor Kirillov declared during a press conference about the poisoning of ex-GRU agent Sergey Skripal in the United Kingdom that Syrian government forces had captured forty tons of poisonous substances the jihadis intended to use for staged chemical attacks to be blamed on the Assad government. Kirillov's comparison of the attempted chemical false flags in Syria with the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Great Britain blamed by the HMG on Russia elicited outraged tweets from the usual neocon fanatics. The translated text of the joint Russian MFA/MoD press conference can be found here at the Vineyard of the Saker website.

Russian MoD warnings that Syrian militants both 'moderate' and Al-Qaeda linked had tried to stage chemical false flags but failed were followed by Pentagon statements that they had observed a build up of pro-Damascus forces close to the Euphrates River deconfliction line. The Americans vowed to defend themselves from any Syrian government attacks, without presenting any legal basis under international law for carving out their quasi-permanent zone of occupation inside Syria. Meanwhile, Syrian government media outlets accused the U.S. Army of evacuating ISIS personnel on Blackhawk helicopters as the Daesh terror group launched isolated attacks in the greater east Damascus countryside and against security forces across the border in Iraq. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff USMC Gen. Joseph Dunford announced productive deconfliction talks this week with his counterpart, Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.

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Syraq SITREP 32: U.S. Warns Turkey Against Manbij Offensive, Turks Tell Americans to Get Out of Their Way

Syraq SITREP 32: U.S. Warns Turkey Against Manbij Offensive, Turks Tell Americans to Get Out of Their Way

On Tuesday January 23 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a phone call with President Donald Trump, which apparently did not go well. The Turkish readout of the call differed from that of the White House, with the Turks complaining of inaccuracies from the Americans' side. As the Trump Administration sought to portray itself as toughening the American stance on Turkey's (illegal under international law) intervention into northern Syria, Turkish media reported Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had agreed days ago to a 30-kilometer deep 'safe zone' inside Syrian territory.

The U.S. is pursuing a contradictory policy trying to appease its NATO ally while keeping its YPG proxies on script with regards to blaming Russia rather than the U.S. for the Afrin Kurds' suffering. under Turkish bombing and shelling. The problem for the Kurds is, regardless of them blaming Moscow for stepping aside, Erdogan's troops show no signs of stopping their promised advance toward Manbij, even while progress remains slow and 10,000 'Free Syrian Army' cannon fodder have to be brought in to minimize Turkish Army casualties. However, there are many American special forces and contractors in Manbij, creating a political headache Trump really doesn't need. The Commander in Chief is headed for a face-losing choice: either pull U.S. troops out of Manbij and allow the Turks to back him down, or risk worsening the split with a NATO ally that's already pivoting towards Russia and Iran. Naturally, if Trump sides with the Kurds his domestic critics will insist that is what his puppet master Putin wanted him to do, especially if the Turks should again threaten to boot the Americans out of Incirlik Air Base as they did after the failed (CIA and Gulenist linked) July 2016 coup.

Above: Screenshot of a Turkish media argument that the U.S. is backing Kurdish 'terrorists'

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Syraq SITREP 30: Turkey Moves Against U.S. Occupation Kurdish Statelet Army in Syria

Syraq SITREP 30: Turkey Moves Against U.S. Occupation Kurdish Statelet Army in Syria

Since the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been pivoting the once staunch NATO allied country toward its neighbors Russia and Iran. However, there are inherent tensions between the Turks illegal under international law de facto zone of occupation in northern Syria and Moscow's client in Damascus. Yet it appears that it's the Trump Administration, seeking 'leverage' on behalf of its Israeli and Saudi allies through proxy forces building in Syria, that's forcing Erdogan to finally put his cards on the table against NATO.

The Assad government wants the Turks out of their country, but Damascus and its Russian patrons wish to prevent a Kurdish state backed by the Americans -- who cannot be easily dislodged -- without risking a much larger conflict. Now with Washington declaring a 30,000 strong 'border security force' aka an American occupation supporting proxy army led by Ankara's YPG Kurdish enemy, the Turks are indicating forceful action, through shelling Afrin. It isn't clear despite Erdogan's fiery rhetoric and blaming the Americans for the situation just how far his troops intend to go into Syrian Kurdish areas. The rumors (which are being spread by pro-Russian sites like Southfront) that the U.S. is supplying the Kurds with MANPADs capable of shooting down Turkish helicopters and or lower flying jets may prove the last straw for Erdogan.

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Turkish Invasion: Turks Attack U.S.-Backed Syrian Kurds, Support 'Moderate' Jihadists as ISIS Melts Away

The 19th century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston infamously quipped that "Britain has no permanent allies, only permanent interests". This quote is often forgotten by advocates of the eternal U.S.-UK Special Relationship which partially soured over Tony Blair's subservience to George W. Bush and President Obama's meddling in the June Brexit vote of the British people, which backfired. The equivalent expression in Russian to Lord Palmerston's quip is equally terse, "Russia has no allies but Her Army and Navy"

It is a fact that nations historically sharing Orthodox Christianity and liberated through great Russian sacrifices, such as Bulgaria or Montenegro, have elites hostile toward Moscow, notwithstanding the latent to strong Russophilia of their populations. But at the same time, Mother Russia has also at times failed to stand with certain allies such as the early 19th or 21st century Greeks, or as Moscow's geostrategists would put it, the Kremlin opted for realpolitik and conserving important economic or military resources to avoid overextending itself. 

Last week's decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his reluctant junior partner Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to essentially green light Turkey's post-coup President Erdogan attacking U.S.-backed Kurds in northern Syria apparently represents another triumph of realpolitik over idealism. However, there are ample arguments on the other side of that coin, including legitimate questions as to just how 'faithful' an ally a newborn Kurdistan stretching from near the Latakia hills overlooking the Mediterranean to Iran would have proven for Russia -- as opposed to the Kurds' longtime patrons in Washington and Tel Aviv. There are also signs that Moscow is warning the Turks not to push too far into Syria as part of their long-discussed 'buffer zone' along the border.

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Southfront: D.C. Establishment/Dirty Deep State Trying to Escalate Ukraine Conflict to Demonize Russia and Help Hillary

This outstanding nearly eight minute video from Southfront summarizes the increasing tensions in the Donbass as well as between Ukraine and Russia. In the wake of a botched Ukrainian infiltration operation in Crimea earlier this month that left two Russian servicemen dead, Moscow is carrying out large scale summer exercises and moving powerful equipment closer to Ukraine's borders on its own territory.

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Another Report of U.S. Nukes Being Moved Out of Incirlik, and Cohabitation at the Base with the Russians? Awkward

UPDATE: This post has been updated as of Monday, August 22, 2016 6:30 Eastern time with news out of Iran that Russian Aerospace forces have been (temporarily) withdrawn from the Hamadan (also spelled #Hamedan) air base. - JWS

Earlier this month, the White Russian Floridian blogger known as The Saker reported the 'RUMINT' that U.S. tactical nuclear bombs were being airlifted out of the Incirlik Air Base to U.S. base(s) in Bulgaria. After the failed coup d'etat against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Incirlik was also the site of a week long standoff in which Turkish authorities cut off the external power to the facility -- a fact the Daily Beast in its zeal to push the CIA/State Dept. line of 'nothing to see there folks, move on', laughably omitted from a story about alleged 'Russian Twitter propaganda' fueling unwarranted concerns about scores of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons stored at the facility.

However, despite the best efforts of the Daily Beast's ace Carbondale, Illinois attic office-based Twitter reporter Andrew Weisburd, the story of Incirlik -- and the bone of contention it's become since the mid-July putsch in U.S.-Turkish relations -- won't die. Nor have questions gone away about the dispensation of the B61 tactical nuclear bombs that had been stored underground at the base. As the old saw goes, don't believe anything until it's been officially denied by a government. In this case, the USA's NATO ally Romania denying that it has received the nukes Euractiv reported were transported out of Incirlik.

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(US)IS Shoots Down Russian Piloted SyAAF Hind Gunship

No wonder the Guerrilla Economist and Team RogueMoney's friend John B. Wells of the Caravan to Midnight program calls them 'USIS' --

The Islamic State has released video it says shows the shoot down of a Russian piloted Syrian Air Force Mi-24 helicopter gunship east of Palmyra this weekend. The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that the two pilots on board were killed when the chopper crashed after making a low altitude strafing run in support of the Syrian Arab Army units engaged in combat with the Daesh terrorists. Several things are notable about this incident but it's interesting to notice:

1) The Russian Defense Ministry says ISIS used a TOW anti-tank missile, of the type that the CIA supposedly only supplied to vetted 'moderate' Syrian rebels, but which also was used to down a Russian rescue helicopter last November after Turkey's ambush downing of a SU-24 bomber inside Syrian air space. The perpetrators of that ambush who were part of the 'Free Syrian Army' Latakia 'Coastal Brigades' were caught by the Syrian Arab Army.

2) The usual neocon (Trotyskite and now pro-Sunni Salafist sectarian), NATO-linked Atlantic Council Bellingcat and supposed ISIS expert commentators are letting the masks slip, tweeting 'Free Syrian Army' fanboys' glee over the shoot down:

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Battle for Syraq SITREP 1: SAA Advancing to Taqba, Russian Reports of Turkish Advisers Leading Aleppo Jihadists

Battle for Syraq SITREP 1: SAA Advancing to Taqba, Russian Reports of Turkish Advisers Leading Aleppo Jihadists

The following is the Russia Analyst's first attempt at producing a shorter, more easily read SITREP about the fast-developing military situation in Syria and Iraq. As we announced earlier this week, we also plan to introduce SITREPs on the upcoming Brexit vote, the ongoing immivasion/destabilization of the European Union, the build-up of NATO forces near Russia's borders, and the escalation of hostilities along the contact line between the Ukrainian Army and the breakaway Donbass republics.

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