Battle for Syraq SITREP 2: Will Turkey Cut the Cord to Jihadists in Syria?

See The Battle for Syraq SITREP 1 from June 11, 2016

As German blogger Moon of Alabama noted last week, Secretary of State John "Lurch" Kerry had promised unspecified consequences to Damascus if Assad did not step down by August 1. Naturally this did not occur, and the jihadist offensive with an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 men (a division sized force) massed from Idlib and other jihadi controlled territories inside Syria. On August 6 the jihadists attacked, with the 'ex' Al-Nusra operations room based in the ancient (once Syriac Christian majority) city of Antioch in Turkey's Hatay province coordinating the various groups.

As the Financial Times newspaper implied, the attack involved a large amount of ammunition and heavy equipment like Soviet-model armored personnel carriers transferred from Turkish soil. Most of the equipment we see in jihadi videos, contrary to the claims that it was all captured from Assad's military, is likely CIA obtained and Saudi paid for armor from the former Yugoslavia and ex-Warsaw Pact merchants of death in Bulgaria or Croatia, who've made a killing on the Syria and Ukraine wars.

Clarissa Ward in testimony to Congress: hooray for 'ex' Al-Qaeda in Syria!

there are reports that some Saudi military advisers are encircled in eastern Aleppo. This is one of the arguments for desperate attacks by jihadists to lift the siege. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and allies spent a major part of its arms and equipment to capture the Ramouseh Artillery Base and a part of the 1070 Apartment Project. However, they were not able to develop the success. The Syrian government forces’ superiority in artillery and air power player a crucial role in this...

What the FT left out, reading between the lines, is that there were likely a number of 'ex' Jordanian or Saudi army mercenaries helping direct the often tactically inept jihadis to the weakest point of the Syrian Arab Army's line, which was the Aleppo Artillery School. Not coincidentally, the scene of a Salafist Muslim Brotherhood massacre of Allawite Army members back in 1979, which led to Bashir al Assad's father Hafez al Assad brutally crushing a viciously sectarian MBO rebellion.

Once again, the jihadists revealed their fundamentally sectarian, takfiri nature, contrary to the 'moderate rebel' image of the (post)Western presstitutes and Al-Jazeera Sunni Gulfies propaganda. Once again, the same Atlantic Council/neocons hacks like Michael D. Weiss who insist that every other soldier in the Donbass armies fighting Kiev's forces is actually a Russian servicemen pretend there aren't any Saudi or other Sunni Gulf state military 'vacationers' in the ranks of AlCIAeda -- particularly when the jihadists actually display some competency beyond merely hurling several suicide trucks at the SAA and swarming into the breach like 72 virgins-seeking lemmings.

On July 31st jihadist insurgents based in the countryside of Southern Aleppo began a major offensive aimed at breaking the siege of the insurgent pocket in eastern Aleppo city. The offensive failed after making some ground on the back of these massive suicide attacks on the Hikmah military school which was serving as a barracks and the forward defensive position of the Syrian Army and their loyalist allies.

The assault's ferocity and mass took the Syrian Arab Army by surprise, despite many warnings from Russian intelligence dating back to April of a Salafist offensive on Aleppo. For propaganda purposes the jihadis sent a few truckloads of fruits and vegetables through the approximately one kilometer gap they opened in the SAA's encirclement of 'rebel' held east Aleppo -- but the road remains under the loyalists' fire control and the Russian Air Force has heavily bombed the area, killing hundreds of terrorists. Thus as Joaquin Flores explains over at Ft. Russ the siege is not actually broken, but the SAA's inability to stop massed suicide VBIED strikes and lack of effective counter-battery fire in urban terrain (especially when compared to the far more proficient Russian-equipped if not accompanied Novorossiya Armed Forces gunners in the Donbass) have exposed critical loyalist weaknesses that months of arms and training from Moscow have not been able to fix.

Granted, the SAA's manpower shortages, with barely 100,000 men under arms in the whole country with a few tens of thousands in support as home guard or reservists does not allow it to throw men away like its 72 virgins seeking enemies. Furthermore, it's hard to convince even battle hardened and brave Syrian soldiers of the necessity of 'not one step back' orders if they believe the Russian Air Force can come in and fry a few city blocks with thermite bombs so they can take urban terrain back with minimal casualties later. Nonetheless, there may come a point where the jihadists threaten vital supply lines to the far larger population living in the pro-government west Aleppo (rather than the rebel controlled east Aleppo) where the standing order at Stalingrad 'nie shagu nazad' comes into effect.

Before things reach that point in the Battle of Aleppo-grad, Hezbollah's crack units and 2,000 Iranian-trained pro-Hezbollah Iraqi fighters are deploying to help hold the line in the southwestern part of Syria's 2nd largest city. We've also seen, in a tweeted message for Mossad, CIA and the Saudis, the combat debut of Hezbollah's first drone bomber attacking the jihadis in southwestern Aleppo. For those who don't understand what that means, take a look at Al-Masdar News correspondent @TonyTohcy's recent tweets about the return of a Yemeni Air Force to battle against the Saudi occupiers. What Al-Masdar's Yemen correspondent is saying is that Saudi troops may soon experience not only death from Houthis firing Russian or Iranian anti-tank missiles, but also from above.

Writing about the FT's emphasis on Turkish support for the jihadists in Aleppo on the eve of Erdogan's meeting with Putin in St. Petersburg, MOA blogger 'b' had this to say:

The FT piece emphasizing very recent mass logistics through Turkey (which may or may not have happened) was probably placed to depict Turkey in a more “Western” role than it currently has. That would limit Erdogan’s room to maneuver in St. Petersburg. Is it really plausible that Turkey, after a recent bloody U.S. coup attempt, would intensify its back-work for the CIA even when it knows that this would hurt urgently needed new relations with Russia and Iran?

While the recent FT article, quoted above, is emphasizing Turkey’s role, it is playing down U.S. engagement:

“The Americans, of course, knew what was going on. They ignored it to put some pressure back on Russia and Iran,” said a western diplomat in contact with the opposition.

We can be sure that the CIA is doing much more than just ignoring weapon supplies or looking on. The thousands of tons of weapons reaching al-Qaeda and other insurgents were brought in from Bulgaria on U.S. chartered ships. The MANPADs recently delivered to the Taliban equivalent in Syria, Ahrar al-Sham, certainly passed through U.S. hands. The FT also mentions Kerry’s August 1 deadline which we believe marked a U.S. set date for the long planned Aleppo attack and the new siege on the 1.2-1.5 million civilians on the government side of the city.

The propaganda gambit here is obvious: suddenly after weeks of downplaying Turkey's aid to the jihadists after the allegedly CIA-sponsored coup against Erdogan, the FT and other U.S./UK media eagerly report that the Turks are behind the Aleppo offensive. Expect more similar Washington and London-directed media efforts to throw monkey wrenches at the Turkish-Russian rapprochement in the weeks and months to come. We should also expect, as The Duran's Alexander Mercouris writes, slow progress by the Turks when it comes to closing the border to the jihadists if not cutting off the CIA-Saudi-Qatari funded flow of arms entirely to the 'moderate' head choppers.

Mercouris hints any sudden cutoff of the jihadis could prompt retaliation including suicide bombings against their erstwhile sponsor. Not unlike what Daesh aka ISIS aka 'US-IS' has already done. Naturally, given the Islamic State's recent video threatening Russia, Russian tourists slowly returning to Turkey and charter flights resumed to Anatolia would be prime targets for Daesh and the more 'moderate' jihadists. It is also probably not an accident that Kurdish PKK militant attacks on Turkey's armed forces have increased not decreased, taking advantage of the turmoil in the purged Turkish military as well as perhaps Washington's displeasure at being accused of being behind the coup and the surge arms flow to the PKK.

Airstrikes using incendiary munitions on targets inside the rebel held city of Idlib. The airstrikes are said to be carried out by Russian warplanes. || Brandbomben-Luftangriffe auf Ziele in der von Rebellen kontrollierten syrischen Stadt Idlib. Es soll sich bei den Angreifern um Flugzeuge der russischen Luftwaffe gehandelt haben.

What we're likely to see in the short run as Mercouris suggests is more convoys full of arms cooking off after being struck and incinerated by Russian Air Force bombs, as the Turkish MIT (intelligence service) tips off the Russians as to the timing and routes of major arms shipments (with perhaps the tacit understanding that the RuAF wait until the trucks aren't within sight of the Turkish border to strike) . Whether the takfiris, Saudis and Langley boys get wise to this typically Turkish two-faced (but ultimately) temporary 'solution' to the problem of Turkey's geopolitical alignment and losing position from the Syria war remains to be seen.

What's clear is that, as Lada Ray and others in the alternative media have observed, the Turkish pivot to the East is happening but much of it involves delicate negotiations and moves being made behind the scenes, which may not have an immediate impact on the battlefields of Syria or the Donbass. 

The Putin-Erdogan talks in St. Petersburg were led by pragmatism, principally the re-starting of the Turkstream gas pipeline Washington has been furiously trying to sabotage and the resumption of tourist and agribusiness trade. The two sides are also resuming work on the construction of a Rosatom nuclear power plant to supply electricity to Turkey's growing urban population. The thorniest issue of Syria was acknowledged at a press conference by both Putin and Erdogan to have been saved for last in their talks.

Thus the battles for Aleppo and for villages along the Turkish border with Syria's Latakia province will continue to rage as Russia's airpower and artillery surge rains hell on Saudi Arabia and the CIA's beloved 'moderate' Syria jihadists this summer and into the pivotal autumn election season. As the Russia Analyst has written before, the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus Eurasian axis with Beijing working in the background may conclude that the best defense against further Saudi sponsored aggression against a secular, multi-confessional Syria is a good offense. And that means breaking Saudi power both on the battlefields of Yemen and above all, in the morale and economic realms. It also means further exposure of Washington and Langley's support for ISIS and 'ex' Al-Qaeda Jabhat al-Nusra in the coming weeks and months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a restoration of bilateral ties in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, meeting for the first time since the suspension of diplomatic relations between two countries. It is also Erdogan's first state trip abroad since the attempted coup in Turkey in July.