Last week the Russia Analyst wrote about how the Syrian Arab Army had seemed to lose momentum in the face of multiple jihadist rebel counteroffensives and Islamic State attacks on the supply lines to the liberated ancient city of Palmyra. According to Col. Patrick Lang, the retired Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Mideast analyst we cited, this has been primarily due to a chronic shortage of manpower which leaves the SAA spread too thin across much of the country.
The SAA has also pursued the tactic of withdrawing from vulnerable points when pressed in order to preserve manpower and live to fight another day, allowing the Syrian and at times the Russian air force and the artillery to bombard abandoned villages they cede to the enemy before taking them back. The only problem with this tactic is that it can often appear to be bad for morale and allow the jihadists the perception of tactical gains, however short lived. Thus neocon jihadi fanboys like "Jihadi" @JulianRoepcke of Bild or @MichaelDWeiss of the The Daily Beast and RFE/RL (your taxpayer dollars at work Americans) often tweet about ISIS attacks or re-tweet Daesh propagandists, while ignoring the SAA's counterattacks or Russian air strikes that kill large numbers of the terrorists.
After a Lull for Negotiations, Russia Resumes the Diplomatic/Military Offensive in Syria
Nonetheless, the ebb and flow along the front lines and the difficulty of advancing in urban terrain in the East Ghouta pocket east of Damascus, plus the inability to fully cut off the rebel-held portion of Aleppo from re-supply of armaments has taken its toll on the overstretched and war-weary SAA. It has also emboldened the jihadists' sponsors and ISIS not so hidden directors to double down on more arms for their proxies.
However, with more hands on support from Russian advisers and a surge in RuAF strikes this weekend, the so-called 'moderate' jihadists and the Islamic State are back on the defensive. And with stepped up PKK attacks on the Turks and Houthi assaults on the Saudi troops in or near Yemen, the terrorists' sponsors are also being put on the back foot.
Russia's diplomatic efforts, including a proposal directly from Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to conduct joint air strikes by the U.S. and Russian Air Forces against Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat-al-Nusra, have placed Washington in an awkward position. Al-Nusra, unlike the so-called 'moderate' jihadist groups such as Ahrar-al-Sham that the State Department continues to defend despite their Salafist ideology and recent civilian massacres, is NOT a party to the United Nations brokered ceasefire agreement that Washington and Moscow agreed to jointly monitor:
Bad Faith by the Empire of Chaos: Russia is Trying to Force the U.S. to Stop Supporting Ahrar-al-Sham and Other Terrorist Groups Allied with Al-Qaeda in Syria
The mention by Shoigu of NATO member Turkey supplying Nusra and its terrorist allies via the border is no accident. Moscow is clearly sending the message to Washington that it's grown tired of the 3 card Monte/shell game of various jihadi groups merely changing flags to avoid being bombed under the Nusra umbrella.
Together with its rejection of joint strikes on Nusra, Washington's disgusting excuses for Ahrar-al-Sham, including McClatchy's reporting on the State Department granting a visa to a spokesman for the Qatar-backed terrorist group, have made D.C. appear to be what it is -- a cynical party to jihadist terror inside Syria, rather than an opponent of it. Former Department of Defense (US Navy) turned State Department spokesman John Kirby is also likely to face even more difficult questions in the near future as he seeks to explain an insane, pro-Salafist policy:
How the State Dept. flagrantly lies: watch the videos above and below this caption:
The Fraudulent 'War on Terror' and Treason Season on KSA/Qatari Proxies Behalf in D.C.
Despite its heavy use of euphemisms such as 'controversial' for 'terrorist', and repetition of Ahrar-al-Sham's excuses for working closely with Al-Nusra aka Al-Qaeda America's nominal enemy in the 'War on Terror', the McClatchy piece cannot hide the truth: Ahrar-al-Sham and Nusra are joined at the hip. Many of the TOW missiles and other weapons that the Central Intelligence Agency under the leadership of reported Sunni Muslim convert and suspected Saudi asset John Brennan sends to so-called 'moderates' ends up with Ahrar-al-Sham, and hence with the al-Nusra Front:
The question of which think tanks and Saudi/Qatar apologists Labib al Nahhas met with may be highly interesting to those elements of the U.S. 'Deep State' and allied anti-Islamist groups like the super-hawkish Center for Security Policy, whose boss Frank Gaffney may still naively believe the U.S. government is at war with radical Islamists, rather than acting as their facilitator. In practical terms, if we worked at the Brookings Institute which has its pro-Ahrar-al-Sham Doha Center spokesmen like @Charles_Lister, we'd already be looking for a lawyer in case of FBI raids on their offices when Donald J. Trump become the next President of the United States.
President Trump, after getting bashed by neocons over his alleged soft spot for the Russians and Trump's former Yanukovych aide turned campaign adviser Paul Manafort, is going to be in no mood to forgive the neocons for their years of whoring on behalf of the Saudis and Qataris, including for 'regime change' at any price in Libya and Syria. Trump and his surrogates have already stepped up their attacks on Hillary Clinton for her disastrous Libya policy which was undertaken while the Clinton Foundation took massive contributions from the Sunni Gulf Arab sheikhs and royal families.
We for one hope a Trump-led U.S. Justice Department cracks down on Salafi terror-apologizing, Sunni-firster neocons and their use of think tanks to evade the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). But we'll have more to say about the coming push back against the neocon Saudi/Wahhabi/team TOW jihad lobby in a future RogueMoney post. For now, suffice to say, not everyone in the Pentagon or even the CIA itself thinks cozy-ing up to Ahrar-al-Sham with its Al-Qaeda member co-founders is a great idea -- and a few patriots inside the DoD or intelligence community may regard this policy as treasonous and leak accordingly.
#RuAF Strikes Resume, Hezbollah Vows to Send More Men to Fight in Syria -- Nasrallah and Iran's Answer to Those Who Said Iran and Its Proxies Were Partially Withdrawing
Turning from the U.S.-Russia information war over Syria to the actual combat, the biggest story of the week besides the return of Russian Air Force jets to the skies over Idlib, Aleppo and Homs provinces is the vow of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to send more fighters to Syria. While the Lebanese Hezbollah does not have a huge number of fighters in the war-torn country, they are some of the best trained and most motivated infantry the pro-Assad forces have. Like the Syrian Arab Army's own Desert Hawks and Tiger Forces, the Hezbollah troops often act as fire brigades rushing from one part of the expansive front lines to another.
It was Hezbollah that bolstered a shaky group of Iranian-recruited Afghan Shi'a fighters at the battle of Khan Tuman in early April and possibly in May. The multi-week Khan Tuman battle is noteworthy for not only the significant and jihadi propaganda-exaggerated number of casualties among regular Iranian soldiers and IRGC troops, but also for the second time the jihadists were able to do serious damage to a newer model Russian T-90 tank in Syria Army hands.
As we reported here at RogueMoney last weekend, at least one T-90 was struck by a TOW missile and apparently immobilized on the battlefield. Whether the tank was eventually towed to safety and repaired, and what happened to the crew, we do not know:
What we do know is that 'the Syrian Express' of Russian cargo vessels sagging in the water with arms continues at a robust pace through the Turkish-controlled Bosporus, and far from retreating in the face of significant losses, Hezbollah is doubling down in Syria. The Lebanese Shi'a militant group has also stated that the recent loss of a senior commander was an assassination carried out by a takfiri group, not the Israeli Mossad or military. This means that although Hezbollah has not abjured retaliation against Israeli troops, especially those patrolling the disputed Shebaa Farms salient along the Lebanese border, the Shi'a group is avoiding direct combat with the Israelis for now at the behest of its Iranian and Russian allies.
Nasrallah's assurances that Hezbollah is sending more troops to fight in Syria may have been in response to reports like Al-Rai Media's Elijah J. Magnier and other journalists' claims that the group and its Iranian sponsors were partially withdrawing from the Syria war due to high casualties and frustration over Russia's fruitless negotiations with the U.S. It would appear Elijah J. Magnier's sources were mistaken, as was now resigned Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who bragged to the Israel-firster Saban forum at the (Qatar and Turkey-sponsored) Brookings Institute in December that Iranian forces were leaving Syria.
Incidentally, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's latest BS about the Persians creating another Holocaust using nukes Iran doesn't have to wipe Israel off the map, it appears Mr. Ya'alon finally had enough and is now out of a job. No wonder the Guerrilla calls him 'Nuts&Yahoo' when Bibi is too extreme even for the likes of the 'I'd rather have ISIS on Israel's border than Iran' Ya'alon!
The SAA is Slowly Strangling the Jihadist Pocket in East Ghouta near Damascus
Whether or not the Russians and Iranians were taking Sun Tzu's advice in The Art of War to 'feign disorder in your camp, then crush the enemy' and were engaged in an act of maskirovka or had genuine strategic disagreements about how to bring the Syria war to a successful negotiated conclusion, one thing is clear. Russia will continue to provide the air strikes, logistics and intelligence support to the Eurasian axis campaign in Syria while Moscow has made it very clear to Tehran that it must supply the fresh manpower, whether Hezbollah, Iranian troops, or Iraqi and Afghan Shi'a militias whose training is often not of a high quality but who can be expected to lightly garrison seized ground against enemy counterattacks.
These Iranian auxiliaries as well as Syrian reservist National Defense Forces will be especially important in securing the highly urbanized terrain east of Damascus in the East Ghouta pocket. RogueMoney readers may recall that this is the Damascus suburb from which Turkish and Saudi backed terrorists launched sarin nerve agent tipped rockets in a false flag that killed hundreds of civilians in order to draw the U.S. into direct combat with Assad's forces in August 2013. Not only for this reason, East Ghouta's close proximity to the capital has made it a perennial thorn in the side of the Assad government, creating a zone from which jihadists could try to threaten or lob rockets at key highways supporting the Syrian Army and economy.
The good news is after weeks of infighting between some of the jihadist groups backed by Saudi Arabia and those supported by Qatar, the rebel pocket is almost encircled and in a state of collapse, as Southfront reported on May 20:
Citing a non-Russia friendly source, the neocon think tank the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, Col. Patrick Lang had this to say at his SST/Turcopolier blog:
While the 'Moderate' Jihadists Desperately Try to Prevent their Encirclement at Ghouta and Aleppo, the Islamic State is Also Under Renewed Pressure on All Battle Fronts
The other piece of good news coming from Syria this weekend is related to renewed pressure on the Islamic State terrorist army, from the north, east and southern flanks of its so-called 'caliphate' centered in Raqqa and on the trans-border 'Syraqi' Euphrates River valley. On the Iraqi side of the Sykes-Picot border, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed that his troops will raise Iraq's flag over the Daesh-held city of Fallujah.
American RogueMoney readers may remember that Fallujah was the city that U.S. Marines fought a bloody battle for in the mid-2000s when the U.S. Army's own resources proved inadequate to take the city back from insurgents. Today the sons and cousins of those same Salafis who fought and in many cases died at the hands of the Marines are fighting the Iraqi security forces under the black flag of Daesh. The Iraqi Army has started pummeling the city with howitzer strikes and it's a safe bet many Daeshbags who aren't yet ready to meet their 72 virgins will try to slip out of the city as the Iraqis tighten the cordon around it. In practical terms what this means along with the increasing number of border crossings the Iraqis are taking back along the Syrian border is that ISIS forces at Deir-ezzor and in Raqqa provinces cannot expect any reinforcements from the Iraqi side of the border.
While giving the Iraqis very little close air support they can use to advance against dug in and in many cases heavily tunneled ISIS fighters, Washington has been playing a 'good cop/bad cop' game on the other side of the border in Syria. The objective appears to be to try and buy as much time as possible for Washington's Turkish and Saudi-backed Salafist allies like Ahrar-al-Sham to gain more ground before Moscow simply has enough and starts bombing the crap out of them as between November and January.
Unfortunately for team TOW jihad, the Russians have begun bombing the single major road that remains open to the terrorist-held portion of Aleppo city, from whence the jihadists have bombarded and killed hundreds of civilians in the last several weeks. If the road can be cut off by an SAA advance, than the jihadists inside the city will slowly be starved of ammunition even if they can continue hijacking Red Crescent aid convoys for medical supplies and sustenance.
Not only have the Russians vowed to step up their air campaign starting this Wednesday May 25, they have also vowed to target so-called 'aid' convoys coming from NATO member and U.S. ally Turkey with airpower -- which will likely result in the death of some Turkish citizen truck drivers. It would appear Moscow's patience with not only the Americans but especially the Turks has worn thin and the gloves are coming off again as they did after Turkey's ambush shoot down of a SU-24 bomber inside Syrian air space last November:
Meanwhile, not everyone in the Pentagon is willing to keep running the so-called U.S. war on ISIS at the half-assed, snail's pace of the last several months. After many months of the Obama Administration doing everything possible to ensure Daesh faced only a token number of U.S. air strikes and limited advances by Kurdish YPG aligned Arab Self-Defense Forces (SDF) fighters, the recent visit by a U.S general to a special forces camp in far northeastern Syria suggests the pace of attacks toward Raqqa is about to increase.
The reaction of the so-called 'Free Syrian Army' to this show of U.S. support for the YPG/SDF who attacked Al-Nusra's supply lines into Aleppo as well as Daesh is also quite revealing. Could the 'good guys' inside the Pentagon finally be forcing the bad guys and Saudi-Turkey firsters and globalists to actually fight ISIS...instead of mostly pretending to fight them?
It remains to be seen if the appearance of Gen. Votel among the US Special Forces units training YPG Kurds and SDF Arab fighters to take on the Islamic State will lead to stepped up pressure on Daesh's lines north of Raqqa and east of Aleppo. The Arab SDF fighters quoted in the AP story cited above complained about not getting any type of modern weaponry from the U.S. side, without explicitly stating that this was likely due to Washington's appeasement of Ankara. The Turkish government and the neocon Senators who push its talking points like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claim the Kurdish YPG is merely another arm of the PKK, which has launched more brazen attacks in recent weeks on Turkish troops inside Turkey.
What is clear is that the Russians are bringing more firepower and the Iranians more manpower to the fight against the terrorists in Syria, both al-Nusra and ISIS. The Russians are also calling time on the State Department's stalling tactics to prevent an encirclement of rebel-held Aleppo, while demanding to know which side Washington is on when it comes to al-Nusra's so-called 'moderate' allies who get the red carpet rolled out for them in D.C.