Russia, Iran and the Overstretched SAA: Can More Iranian and Iraqi Troops Resume the Offensive with Russian Air Support?

Over at his Sic Semper Tyrannus (SST) blog, retired Army Green Berets Colonel and Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Patrick Lang writes about the frustrating problem the Russian-led coalition in Syria has encountered -- not enough troops. While some may make the false comparison between what Russia is trying to do in Syria, support a legitimate government against armies of foreign backed jihadists, and what the U.S. did in Iraq in violation of international law, there is one parallel that cannot be dismissed: in both cases the number of troops was and is inadequate for safeguarding the whole country or even securing key areas like Aleppo.

This is of course, not Russia's fault, but due to the grinding down of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allied militias through years of attrition backed by tens of billions in Saudi and Qatari petrodollars paying for fighters and defections, paired with seemingly unlimited quantities of small arms, IED mines/mortars and anti-tank weapons. Not only have the SAA lost between 100 and 125,000 men killed and likely double that wounded since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, they have also been at war longer than Soviet forces were with Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1945.

Syria has also lost millions of men who potentially could have provided sufficient manpower to decisively defeat the terrorists if not completely wipe them out due to the deliberate strategy of the jihadists using scorched earth, while Angela Merkel's immivasion-promoting policy in Germany and the EU seeks to lure as many Syrian males of military age out of the country as possible. That Mutti Merkel's policy has also let in Daesh or Al-Qaeda sympathizers if not former jihadist combatants numbering in the thousands to tens of thousands is of course, a hidden but effective bonus for the globalists who seek to destabilize Europe and keep it utterly dependent on Washington.

As The Saker explained in his interview with Catherine Austin Fitts earlier this month, from the very beginning of the operation in late September and early October Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Moscow's mission would be limited in scope and duration. The objective, as Putin laid down, was never to completely crush the Islamic State/Daesh or other terrorist groups attacking the government of Bashir-al-Assad, but to save the Syrian state from collapse. There is no question the Russian intervention has been a game changer and came as an infuriating shock to Washington's empire builders. Russia's move has definitely shattered any U.S., Israeli or Turkish/Saudi hopes of toppling Assad or his chosen successor.

Having avoided a ruinous occupation of a hostile, U.S.-puppet regime led Ukraine, Moscow has no interest in handing the neocons their wet dream of bleeding the Russian Bear in a second Afghanistan inside Syria. Although Moscow has a few thousand troops supplemented by several hundred private military contractors (PMCs) in country, it has generally avoided direct participation in the fighting except for forward air controllers directing bombing and longer range artillery/rocket fire. This has kept Russian casualties low, though Moscow recently acknowledged the death of another serviceman from hostile fire while guarding a convoy in Homs, bringing the total admitted combat deaths number to ten (the total number of Russian military contractors who've died in Syria since the start of the war is likely in the couple of dozen range).

Russians are paying their final respects to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, a Russian officer who was surrounded by terrorist forces during the battle for Palmyra and called in artillery fire on his own position. READ MORE: RT LIVE Subscribe to RT!

Short of a massive Turkish attack on the Khmeimim airbase or other Russian positions in Syria that demands a response to humiliate the NATO member country's forces, there are few scenarios we can envision that would lead to a surge of Russian troops into the country that would rival the force levels seen in the Soviet-Afghan War. Instead, we expect a quiet but steady ramp up in the number of Russian advisers and artillerymen taking part in direct combat, particularly in the eastern desert approaches to Deir ez-Zor where the SAA and Hezbollah fighters can make rapid gains against ISIS with Russian helicopter gunship support.

The #PrayingforPalmyra Concert Conducted by Putin's Friend Valery Gergiev, Which Angered British Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond and Lying Propagandists at RFE/RL

Renowned conductor Valery Gergiev is leading a concert in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra to support the restoration of the UNESCO site and honor victims of the war. The city of Palmyra was devastated by Islamic State terrorists who occupied the site for some 10 months before it was liberated by Syrian troops with Russian air support.
A Russian Mi-24 gunship photographed in front of a truck-mounted SAA GRAD rocket launcher, near Palmyra in March 2016

A Russian Mi-24 gunship photographed in front of a truck-mounted SAA GRAD rocket launcher, near Palmyra in March 2016

The real problem on that front of course isn't routing the Daesh forces, who generally prefer to flee rather than die in large numbers for isolated villages, it's securing the long highways and exposed flanks in open desert to logistically sustain an advance that can break the Islamic State siege of Deir ez-Zor and open the road to friendly Iraqi forces in Anbar province.


With this objective in mind, the joint Russian/Syrian/Hezbollah liberation of Palmyra has permitted faster air support for an advance across the desert; one that will force Daesh into the disadvantaged position of having to fight as defending infantry rather than attacking guerrillas, and thus get slaughtered by superior firepower.

In response to Russian airpower, no doubt advised by their Saudi and Turkish if not other unseen handlers in the region, Daesh, Jabhat al Nusra and other terrorist groups have reacted through various means: dispersal of assets, greater use of underground shelters or tunneling in urban areas such as Aleppo to avoid bombing, and lavish expenditure of anti-tank missiles especially the TOW (even to the point of firing TOWs at individual SAA soldiers or pick up trucks that the US Army would consider a waste of ammo).

A Russian made SAA T90 tank is hit by a U.S. provided TOW missile in Aleppo province, but the tank's Kontakt reactive armor saves it. The T90 smokes but is not destroyed and if Russian technicians were nearby it could probably be towed off the battle field and repaired to working condition within days.

The 'moderate' jihadists sponsors in the U.S., Great Britain and France as well as the Turks and Saudis meanwhile, have successfully stalled the SAA's advances through diplomatic as well as proxy counterattacks. While the terrorists have been able to slow and in some places reverse the Syrian Arab Army's gains from the period of intensive Russian air strikes between November and February, they have also taken heavy losses, particularly among Daesh fighters in the open desert.

An example of neocons rooting for Daesh and al-Nusra: scumbag @MichaelDWeiss eagerly re-tweets ISIS propaganda while puffing up the terror group's inflated martial reputation. Weiss always retweets Daesh and AlNusra propaganda about successful attacks and then ignores retreats after the terrorists take heavy casualties to SAA artillery and Russian air strikes

Just as the US and UK vetoed a Russian call to put Ahrar Al Sham on a terror list, this Rebel group ethnically cleansed allawites in the town of Al Zara in Homs province. Unblurred image here SUBSCRIBE!

Providing Civilian Massacreing Ahrar-Al-Sham Terrorists Diplomatic Cover:
The Latest Despicable Move by the Exceptionalistan/Empire of Chaos

Last week the U.S. joined by Britain, France and Ukraine vetoed a Russian-sponsored resolution at the United Nations to label the Qatar-backed jihadist group Ahrar-al-Sham a UN recognized terrorist organization. This veto effectively confirms Russian media's claims that the regime in Kiev is effectively becoming a Turkish as well as American satellite, with growing reports of Turkish mercenaries and foreign jihadists showing up in Ukraine near the border with Crimea and the contact line in Donbass. It should be noted here that the U.S. and allied veto of the Russian resolution against Ahrar-al-Sham occurred just days before the terrorist group massacred a Syrian Allawite village, including a number of teenage and preteen girls.

The disgusting U.S. veto on Ahrar's (actually terrorist sponsoring states Qatar and Turkey's) behalf at the UN prompted this difficult exchange between State Department spokes-liar John Kirby and the Associated Press'
Matthew Lee (@APDiploWriter):

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry makes claims about progress in talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov one day, then threatens the Russians with an unspecified 'Plan B' the next while demanding that Assad must go by August or else...something bad will happen.

Praying for President Hillary! to Escalate the Syria War:
Neocon and U.S. Stalling Tactics Against Russia's Intervention in the Conflict

State Department policy appears to be calculated ambiguity and stalling the Russians, just as journalist Elijah J. Magnier says his Damascus sources are resigned to the Saudis and Turks running out the clock on the Obama Administration in hopes of the next Administration (Hillary cough cough) taking a harder regime change in Damascus at any cost line against Moscow and Tehran. Magnier believes that the discontent among the SAA and the Iranians with Russia withdrawing the bulk of its air forces and seeking a diplomatic compromise with the implacable Americans is quite real, and not just the creation of U.S. or Israeli propaganda:

The Damascus and Moscow alliance faced with the cooperation of the Middle Eastern regional countries and the United States in Syria is failing at the moment. Al-Qaeda in al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra) although excluded from the Cease-fire, grabbed the initiative on the ground and counter attacked south of Aleppo with many allies: Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, Jaish al-Sunnah and the Turkestan forces (all not excluded from the Cease-fire) fighting within the ranks of Jaish al-Fateh, the “army of conquest,” which includes more jihadist organizations and others more moderate.

Although the southern Aleppo city of Khan Tuman seized by the “Army of Conquest” in recent days does not exceed a radius of 3 kms including the village of al-Khalidiya, the successful offensive of the Syrian rebels represent an important milestone in the history of the Syrian war for various reasons. It is revealing the vulnerability of Iran, the fine military planning of rebels and their capability to defy their enemies in spite of the presumed presence of Air Force power.

But most important is the fact that countries in the region know how to read the current political-military current dynamic and understand that Russia, at the moment is sinking politically in the mud of American diplomacy and is engaged in the tunnel of diplomacy. At this moment the Kremlin does not see any solid justification for re-engaging in another air force campaign similar to the one carried for six months, prior the cease-fire.

Now that over 97 cities and towns are engaged in the cessation of hostilities (COH), the Russian President Vladimir Putin needs a strong case to return to the Syrian arena in full force. Today, Moscow has placed itself alongside flexible American diplomacy, which in Syria changes according to developments and is unwilling to re-initiate a military campaign that could be considered aggressive to various countries in the Middle East. Such a flexible Russian attitude has angered Tehran and Damascus and their proxy allies, forcing them to alter plans of deployment.
The M20 highway from recently liberated Palmyra to the Euphrates River valley city of Deir-ez-Zor, where the SAA have withstood over 19 months of siege by Daesh. Lifting the siege and routing Daesh from around Deir-ez-Zor would open up the possibility of friendly Iraqi forces advancing up the Euphrates to attack territory approaching Raqqa that Daesh will have no choice but to expend heavy numbers of jihadists' lives to defend. At which point once the Islamic State is at the point of collapse its true masters in Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be forced to either overtly intervene or accept defeat.

The M20 highway from recently liberated Palmyra to the Euphrates River valley city of Deir-ez-Zor, where the SAA have withstood over 19 months of siege by Daesh. Lifting the siege and routing Daesh from around Deir-ez-Zor would open up the possibility of friendly Iraqi forces advancing up the Euphrates to attack territory approaching Raqqa that Daesh will have no choice but to expend heavy numbers of jihadists' lives to defend. At which point once the Islamic State is at the point of collapse its true masters in Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be forced to either overtly intervene or accept defeat.

The Coming Offensive for Deirezzor: Daesh Spoiling Attacks Can't Stop This Train

For now the Russian plan to help the SAA regain the initiative appears to be: hold the line in and around Aleppo, using heavy bombers if necessary flying all the way from the Mozdok base in the Caucasus to pummel jihadist lines, while advancing east of Palmyra against Daesh. The fact that the U.S. and its allies cannot openly complain too much about combined SAA/Russian  and Hezbollah successes against the Islamic State seems to be key to Putin's present strategy.

The pressure that Daesh continues to exert on SAA supply lines and the besieged Syrian garrison at Deir ez-Zor would appear to dictate an advance across the desert as the most logical Russian military move. Furthermore, opening the border crossings presently controlled by Daesh or anti-Assad jihadist groups with Iraq would permit Iraqi Shi'a militias numbering in the tens of thousands, to join the SAA and their ideological inspiration Hezbollah in assaulting the Islamic State 'caliphate' and eventually, Raqqa itself.

Note the highway signs photographed here after the SAA and its allies liberated Palmyra.

Note the highway signs photographed here after the SAA and its allies liberated Palmyra.

Moscow has demonstrated both flexibility and repeated tactical surprise with its initial intervention and with the deployment of heavy bombers plus ship and submarine launched cruise missiles. With Washington having demonstrated its bad faith and complicity in the Syria jihad by using its UN veto to defend the terrorist scum of Ahrar-al-Sham, Kremlin hard liners and the Russian Defense Ministry are no doubt pushing Putin to step up Russia's commitment to its Iranian, SAA and Hezbollah allies this summer.


A sudden offensive of combined Russian and Iranian forces to finally close the noose around the rebel held portion of Aleppo or a push from Latakia province to cut the Turkish express jihadi supply line through Jisr ash-Shugur cannot be ruled out. Nor can a bold Russian strategy to link up with friendly Iraqi forces and assault the Daesh besiegers of Deirezzor from the east rather than west, involving the use of airlifted VDV paratroopers and supplies.

Bloody Stalemate or Escalated Proxy War Across the Mideast This Summer?

The Russia Analyst concurs with Al-Rai Media's Elijah J. Magnier that the war in Syria is far from over. The outhouse of Saud and the increasingly Islamist Turks are not yet ready to accept the defeat of their proxies. For Washington and Tel Aviv, having failed with their 'Plan A' of toppling Assad and installing a Saudi-Qatari puppet regime to run oil and gas pipelines from those GCC producers to Turkey and the Mediterranean (and thence to Europe to compete with Russian energy supplies to the EU), Plan B of a bloody partition along sectarian lines still seems within reach.

However, this weekend's stepped up PKK attacks on Turkish army units inside Turkey, and the failure of peace talks between the Houthis and Saudis now being held in Kuwait, heralds a bloody summer of casualties for the Sunni coalition of U.S. allies that have conspired to destroy Syria. As we said in our post on Saturday, it may very well be the case that Iran's mullahs and supreme military leaders have come to the conclusion that the best defense for Persian troops inside Syria against all out proxy attack from Turkish and Saudi assets is a good offense, taking the fight to the Turks and Sauds' soil (including, we strongly suspect, the growing likelihood of Iraqi Shi'a militias engaging in cross border hit and run raids to kill Saudi troops along the border with Iraq, or alternatively rocketing the illegal Turkish base at Bashiqa near Mosul).

The Wild Card of Israel-Hezbollah Re-Continued Warfare --
A Headache Russia and Iran Do NOT Need and Therefore Likely to Happen

Hezbollah  is growing increasingly furious at the Israeli-intelligence aided assassination of its senior commanders as well as Iranian generals inside Lebanon and Syria. Despite Putin's desire to avoid any conflict between Hezbollah forces now fighting inside Syria and Israel, the Party of Allah is likely to strike back at the Israeli military sometime this summer. Past tactics Hezbollah have used include ambushing or kidnapping Israeli soldiers from the disputed Shebaa Farms area. The use of Russian Verba or other advanced infra-red jammer defeating MANPADs to shoot down Israeli Army helicopters along the Lebanese border is likely to draw a furious response from the IDF and threats from Netanyahu against the Russian forces in Syria, and thus is unlikely to occur.

Nonetheless, Team Rogue Money's 'godfather' W the Intelligence Insider, warned the Russia Analyst this week that he expects some sort of Mideast escalation by the first week of June. A sudden Israeli attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon may be just what the Empire of Chaos needs to distract the Mideast and global media from the fact that Russia and the SAA and not the U.S., are still doing the heavy lifting in the fight against Daesh. Furthermore, without drawing limited SAA manpower away from the Russian-backed attack across the eastern Syrian deserts, Daesh will continue to take heavy casualties and suffer defeats, making it a less useful instrument for the next Administration to justify a new American surge in the Middle East after terrorist attacks attributed to the terror army. Overall, absent a decisive shift in American policy -- say under a President Donald J. Trump, or the collapse of the Erdogan or Saudi regimes, the war in Syria remains likely to drag on indefinitely.