First, a bit of 'housekeeping' or really, an acknowledgement of our own limitations. Unlike those analysts out there in alternative media who only tell you the predictions they've successfully made and gotten right, we admit that we did not see the Russians overtly striking targets in Syria, at least not this soon.
Much of our skepticism was owed to our Floridian White Russian friend The Saker. But as it turned out Israeli-Russian Israel Shamir's sources were correct in early September that Russia intended to fight against ISIS and the CIA/Saudi/Qatari backed jihadists of Al-Nusra Front sooner rather than later.
...in the Russia Analyst's view we are unlikely to see Russian soldiers and combat pilots participating in direct combat with the Islamic State or the anti-Assad rebels -- unless their status as anti-ISIS coalition member combatants can receive some sort of United Nations or international mandate. Then the situation would change completely as Russia would be able to use its highest firepower and most modern weapons while regional allies (Iraq, Iran, and possibly even Saudi Arabia and Egypt to take de facto control over southern and Jordanian-bordering Sunni areas of Syria) would provide the bulk of the manpower and endure the casualties before ISIS is completely wiped out. - "Are Russian Soldiers and Pilots Fighting in Syria? Not Quite Yet" us writing at RogueMoney on September 7, 2015
On the other hand, our caveats about Russian military action did mention that if Russia got involved it would leave the vast bulk of the ground combat to the Syrian Arab Army, the Iranians, and the Iraqis (with some of Gen. Sisi's Egyptian special forces thrown in for good measure?). The primary task of any Russian troops deployed to Syria's generally pro-Assad Allawite heartland near the Mediterranean coast would be force protection of air and naval bases, followed by elite special forces to hunt down high value targets such as Caucasians and assorted Muslims from the former Soviet 'Stans embedded within ISIS and Al-Nusra.
That Putin's Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov would volunteer his elite and feared Kadyrovsti soldiers to fight terrorists on behalf of Allah and Mother Russia, we had little doubt. What we did not anticipate is that Russian media would report that Beijing is sending People's Liberation Army (PLA) commandos to Syria in order to fight Turkic Uyghur jihadists from far western China. Reports that China sent its one and only operational aircraft carrier to the Russian naval base at Tartus were false, much like Debka's claim that the Russians were sending a nuclear ballistic missile submarine to Syria. We also aren't buying Debka's claims that Chinese J-15 fighter bombers are en route to Syria until we see pictures of them lined up alongside the Russians' jets. At any rate with the claims that Moscow is about to launch a ground offensive in the vicinity of Homs using its own or Chinese troops, Доверяй, но проверяй -- trust but verify as Reagan used to say.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1_4GC6oLGE[/embed] As the Tennesse actor Fred Dalton Thompson famously said in the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October -- which no doubt inspired Debka's disinfo scribblers to claim a Typhoon-class SSBN was sailing to Syria -- "what's his plan? A Russian submarine captain doesn't go to the bathroom without a plan." Similarly, it's safe to assume Putin has a plan in Syria, besides twirling his evil (non-existent) mustache while showing up Obama and the U.S. in the Middle East.
Zerohedge has done a good job discussing the daily news of the situation and the Iranians keen interest in a counteroffensive on behalf of Damascus and their Hezbollah local proxies. Therefore we don't see the need to belabor points that have already been made elsewhere in the alternative media and English-language Russian press of RT/Sputnik. What we can do as the Russia Analyst fresh from a Moscow trip is present our analyses in a Q&A format, focused on the obvious 'why now?' and 'what next?' inquiries as presented by the mainstream media and the Russians.
Questions such as:
1) Why has Putin chosen to directly intervene in Syria -- a non-Slavic, Muslim majority country hundreds of kilometers from Russia's borders -- while avoiding direct engagements as opposed to proxy war 'next door' in Ukraine? And why now?
This is a fair question and one many Russian nationalists critical of Putin have been asking since it became clear in late September around the time of Putin's United Nations general assembly speech (more on that in another post) Russia would directly intervene with air strikes against the Islamic State. One answer was supplied by RogueMoney reader and regular commenter SloopyJoe:
Why now Syria and not Ukraine? Ukraine was a trap that the cunning Bear smelled a mile away that is collapsing on its own inertia. Syria is going on five years ILLEGAL USSA-led Western FUBAR War OF Terrorism that is now clearly visible for the world to see. The mission creep of the Turkish No-Fly Zones into Northern Syria is a big NO NO in the Bear’s and Dragon’s eyes.
Certainly the Western globalists desire to impose a 'No Fly Zone' to secure 'safe areas' for civilians which would become militarized pockets for future anti-Damascus offensives along the Yugoslav breakup model was a motivating factor in terms of the timing. In an odd example of bipartisan 'get tough' rhetoric serving the same globalist objectives, Hillary "what difference does [Benghazi] make?" Clinton and Dr. Ben Carson the supposed antagonists of America's false Repub-Democrat Left/Right paradigm all agreed this week after Russian bombs started falling that the U.S. should impose a no-fly zone over territories occupied by 'its' rebels (see more about this in our post about the propaganda war vs. Russia's Syria campaign).
Nevermind that Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra are all in the same areas! Nevermind that the so-called 'Free Syrian Army' (FSA) works with Al-Nusra. Nevermind that it's only after the Russian bombs started falling that everyone seems to know with certainty where ISIS is and isn't, and which groups are and aren't 'moderates' supported by the CIA. The Russian bombing of ISIS strongholds in Raqqa has been greeted with either silence or angry denials that the Kremlin is serious about fighting ISIL, in addition to the groups that more closely threaten Assad's strategic heartland stretching from Damascus via a narrow salient to the Allawite-dominated Latakia region on the Med.
While Assad's army is NOT about to collapse, it is worn out by four years of hard urban fighting and significantly outnumbered if not outgunned by its Western and Sunni Gul state-sponsored foes. This is what prompted this development reported by Zerohedge[we note for the record that Gen. Soleimaini's visit to Moscow was denied by the Russian authorities at the time - JWS]:
Back in June, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimaini, visited a town north of Latakia on the frontlines of Syria’s protracted civil war. Following that visit, he promised that Tehran and Damascus were set to unveil a new strategy that would “surprise the world.”
Just a little over a month later, Soleimani - in violation of a UN travel ban - visited Russia and held meetings with The Kremlin. The Pentagon now says those meetings were “very important” in accelerating the timetable for Russia’s involvement in Syria. The General allegedly made another visit to Moscow in September.
Although this may seem surprising to Western critics who imagine Putin is hellbent on recreating the Soviet Empire at any cost, the Kremlin is cognizant that Russia has limitations both in finances and manpower when it comes to supporting Russian allies. Moscow's unwillingness to send any more than non-military and a few active duty 'vacationers' when needed to the Donbass war probably came as a great disappointment to those like arch-globalist Russophobe Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski who fantasized about thousands of Russian soldiers dying in bloody urban combat for Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk or Kiev as Russia became a pariah state. And while the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics were able to provide enough former citizens of Ukraine as manpower to halt Kiev's offensive and even reverse it at places like Debaltsevo, the DNR/LNR are not a large enough force to push much beyond the pre-war administrative borders of their respective regions into the rest of Ukraine, much less serve as an occupying force where they are not welcomed by locals.
Mariupol and possibly Kharkov could be exceptions to that rule, but in both places there remains a large minority loyal to a 'united Ukraine' if not the current Kiev regime. Therefore the Kremlin treads cautiously and has in fact reigned in its Novorossiya Armed Forces (NAF) proxies, particularly last September when the possibility of Mariupol being seized with a week or less of fighting was very real.
Whether Russia's Putin slamming 'hooray patriots' like it or not, from an international relations and legal point of view it matters that Bashir al-Assad is still recognized as the head of state in Syria. This is the case Washington likes it or not, and regardless of Washington's weak attempts to form a government in exile that its Persian Gulf Sunni-stan partners can 'recognize'. This means that Russia's air campaign over Syria is legal under international law, whereas the American-led anti-ISIS coalition bombing Syria does not have similar legitimacy.
The Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics breakaway statelets are not internationally recognized even by Moscow (unlike say, Abkhazia and South Ossetia whose formal independence has been recognized by Russia and a handful of Russian allies). From an international legal point of view -- and we know Putin was trained in St. Petersburg as a lawyer after the KGB dissolved in 1992 -- Assad can under the UN Charter's terms invite Russian forces to fight for his country, whereas the elected but unrecognized leadership of the DPR/LPR cannot.
Furthermore, the Kremlin is well aware that the population in large parts of Ukraine would view Russian armed forces as occupiers, whereas in Syria's pro-Assad Latakia region they are viewed as potential saviors or at least offer hope of an enforced truce after nearly five years of war. Indeed, some Syrian Christians if not Allawites living in the area may hope that their attractive daughters catch the eye of some Russian officers or pilots, so the whole family can be sponsored in relocating to Russia. A trickle of Syrian Christians and Allawite refugees has already been resettled in Russia proper, overshadowed by the over one million Ukrainians who have fled into the arms of the 'aggressor' nation.
Syrian mother in 2013: I want my children to become Russian citizens
Again, whether the 'hooray patriots' like it or not these differences matter a great deal, just as it matters that Russia will be far from fighting alone or with the Syrian Arab Army only. The prospect of Iranian officers directing Iraqi militiamen, if not the direct involvement of the Iraqi Army and perhaps even the Egyptians and Chinese in a counteroffensive matters a great deal. It means Russia is not fighting alone, unlike in Afghanistan (see our and others thoughts in reply to question 4 below).
Unlike in Syria, where time was not on the side of Putin's allies without more substantial aid to match the billions Riyadh and Doha have spent to arm the insurgents, in Ukraine time is on the side of Russia's Donbass proxies. The longer the Ukrainian economy collapses, cut off from Ukraine's natural trade with Russia, the less war-making potential the U.S.-backed Kiev regime will have (though American aid can certainly prolong the life span of the Poroshenko and succeeding forces). As we've pointed out here at RogueMoney over the last several months, the Kiev regime could not launch a serious offensive now even if it wanted to, because it lacks a sufficient number of attackers to achieve any breakthrough against determined and now-heavily armed, battle hardened locals. This means if Washington wants to achieve anything on the attack in Ukraine, it will have to risk the lives of American soldiers or at least NATO mercenaries to press any attack. That is something the Obama Administration has thus far not been willing to do.
Hence, contrary to the claims of Kiev propagandists like Christo Grozev or Yale Prof. Timothy Snyder that Putin distracts his people from the unresolved Donbass war with a new one in Syria, in fact the Kremlin keeps the conflict frozen and the DPR/LPR's final status ambiguous on purpose. The goal for Moscow was never to conquer territory [why does Russia need any more land? What Russia needs is more people -which the emigration from a failing Ukraine provides - JWS] or dominate the Ukrainians, as Grozev and Snyder imagine, but to use the DPR and LPR to block Ukraine from ever joining the EU (always a far fetched goal) and NATO (now extremely unlikely as Kiev joining would require unanimity among countries like Germany, France, Italy, Hungary and Greece that were never enthusiastic about Washington's policies in Ukraine in the first place).
To this end, a frozen conflict in Donbass suits the Kremlin's purposes perfectly, though it is not satisfactory to the majority of Donbass militiamen who had hoped to liberate their regions if not all of Ukraine from a U.S.-backed regime they regard as fascist. On the other hand, there are those in Donbass who correctly recognize that the economic, social and military integration of Donetsk and Lugansk into the Russian Federation continues on a de facto if not de jure basis. The ruble has already become the currency of choice on the territory of the DPR and LPR (Russian acronyms DNR/LNR). As those counseling patience have pointed out, it would be quite strange for Putin to go through the trouble of spending billions of rubles to aid the Donbass and build up the NAF with tanks, ammunition and fuel only to surrender it to the Ukrainians as part of some 'deal' with the Americans that Washington can never be trusted to uphold anyway.
2) What can Russia, backed by China, and the Iraqis/SAA/Hezbollah realistically hope to achieve with the help of Russian air strikes?
This is a very important question, in some respects, THE most important question if one believes Clausewitz's maxim that war is a continuation of politics by other means. "Tell me how this ends" is the most important question any American should ask their politicians when D.C. is trying to 'sell' them on a new foreign war. As we witnessed from watching Russian TV channels in Moscow prior to the bombing campaign, TV channels like Rossiya and Rossiya 24 were in overdrive presenting the 'fight them now on foreign soil or fight them later at home' argument to a fairly patriotic, pro-Russian military public. We certainly recognize the fallacy of the 'flypaper' strategy in Iraq, which was the argument advanced by many neocons that the U.S. was killing lots of terrorists in Mesopotamia after the initial easy phase of the march on Baghdad bogged down into a years-long occupation that nearly hollowed out the U.S. military.
However there are several important differences between America's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and Russia's actions in Syria. And one can present them easily without allegations of simply being a 'Putin apologist' or 'in the tank for the Russians' no matter what they do. We certainly think for example if Mr. Putin had sent his tanks to Kiev or even Kharkov he'd be making a historic mistake. We have our own fears as generally anti-war libertarians about not only 'collateral damage' from Russian bombs, but also the determination of America's Deep State to fight the Russians if necessary to the last Syrian and foreign jihadist, and damn the costs of turning the U.S.-led 'War on Terror' into a sick joke. Just like the neocon lunatics and their Deep State/globalist string pullers wanted Putin to choose between fighting to the last Ukrainian or force him to accept the defeat of his pro-Russian allies in Donbass.
Nonetheless, the Russian argument that they must 'fight ISIS now in Syria or fight them later in the former USSR Central Asian states or on Russian soil in the Caucuses' make a lot more sense than there American analogues. For starters, Russia does not have the Atlantic Ocean between itself and the 'Muslim world'. Muslims have been a part of the Russian Empire dating back to Ivan IV "the Terrible's" conquest of Kazan over 400 years ago and the medieval Rus had extensive trade and military clash contacts with the Siberian and Tatar Khanates.
For Russia, unlike the United States which sits comfortably behind two oceans from Eurasia, closing the borders and disengaging from the Muslim world is not an option. The Russian Federation has a large Muslim population, even though neocons and Russophobes tend to exaggerate its size and numbers. About 1 out of every 10 Russian residents (approximately 15 million) is or has a relative who is Muslim, more than triple the percentage of the population that is Islamic in the U.S. These numbers have been bolstered in recent years by mass migration from the so-called 'Stans led by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, doing the same types of jobs in Russia that Mexican and Central American migrants do in the USA. Nor are Muslims confined solely to the poorest and least productive regions of Russia in the northern Caucuses region bordering Azerbaijan, Armenia or Georgia. The Muslim-majority Republic of Tatarstan with its petro-dollar renovated capitol in Kazan and Tatneft is a critical part of Russia's petrochemical/hydrocarbon industrial base. As Israel Shamir, a Jewish convert to Russian Orthodox Christianity observes:
Russia is home to some twenty million Sunni Muslims (and very few Shia) [we think these numbers may be exagerrated but are nonetheless 'in the ballpark'- JWS] who are fully integrated and occupy all walks of life and important positions in the Russian state. One of the more fervent and outspoken Russian Muslims is Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of warlike Chechnya. He expressed his support for the Russian airstrikes and offered to lead his fighters into battle in the Syrian hills in order to save the Syrians from the wrath of Takfiris (=those who call other Muslims “Kaffir”, “infidel” – a name for Daesh and other Muslim extremists). So for the Russians, this is not a Crusade of Christians against Muslims, but a war of Christians and Muslims against Takfiri sects.
We already know too that a U.S.-trained former Georgian Army officer known as Omar Al-Shishani is one of the top emirs in the Islamic State/ISIL (known as IGIL in Russian). This has led many Russian military and intelligence service men to declare flat out that ISIS is a CIA creation. This may or may not be a slight exaggeration. We know from interviews with retired KGB/SVR Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov and current GRU chief Colonel-General Igor Sergun believe Daesh is a U.S.-created monster that may have become inconvenient for its masters. So whether you like neocon hipster Michael D. Weiss sneer at this belief of Putin's top advisers and likely Vlad himself, or accept it based on merits is ultimately irrelevant for the near term (though exposure of Russian kompromat about who created Daesh and how no doubt will do tremendous damage to what's left of Washington's 'war on terror' and 'good guy' reputation).
In a fallen world, international relations is not a Hollywood courtroom drama where the bad guys frame up is finally exposed for all to see, Putin has decided to take the U.S. Narrative about big bad ISIS as the worst super terrorist group since COBRA from the GI Joe series and exploit it for Russia's own geostrategic interests. Some may find that crass, others clever realpolitik, but it 'is what it is'.
For argument's sake, we would state that at best the CIA enjoys only one degree of separation from ISIS, and pretty much everyone 'in the neighborhood' if not outside the greater Mideast with two brain cells to rub together knows it. At worst, the half-assed, pathetic and unsuccessful 'coalition' air campaign against the group contrasted with the howling over Russia's more aggressive bombing is the best proof possible that Washington intended to use ISIS rather than dismantle them all along. One only needs to ask a few common sense questions to see the pattern.
Why didn't we see an exodus of military age males from ISIS and Al-Nusra controlled territories that Russia is now bombing prior to a month or two ago, or better yet when the U.S. bombing of ISIS began?
Why did ISIS never cancel Friday prayers in Raqqa when it was the U.S. not Russia doing the bombing?
Why did the US never hit the ISIS oil truck convoys illicitly supplying the Turks or for that matter according to neocons like Weiss, Assad's regime with fuel? Why if oil smuggling was so important to Daesh's bottom line was this never done?
Why was most Americans first impression of Daesh besides beheading videos with top notch Hollywood production values huge lines of Toyota Tundra and other looted vehicles rolling through the Syrian and Iraqi deserts, unmolested by American drones or bombing?
Most importantly, why did no fewer than 50 intelligence analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other agencies sign off on a complaint that the Obama Administration and its favorite brass have been falsifying U.S. successes against the super-terrorist group even as ISIS territory and recruitment expanded?
The Al-CIAeda charge thus sticks. Therefore notion that Moscow can simply sit back and let Assad fall and not expect the ISIS terrorists to surge into the former Soviet countries, including Ukraine and Russia itself, is naive. That's the argument made by a Russian colonel in the video pasted below. Therefore the answer to "what can Moscow realistically hope to achieve" by its air campaign in Syria is simply this: to do severe damage to these terrorist organizations and devastate them on the battlefield before they can be deployed as useful terror assets against Russia and her allies closer to home.
3) How long will the Russian air strikes and SAA/Iranian counteroffensive last? And how will Russia try to use its forces in Syria as 'force multipliers' to help Assad force peace talks on his enemies (and behind them the Saudis, Qataris, Turks and Americans)?
This is directly related to question no. 2. The answer according to The UK Daily Telegraph is a minimum of 3 to 4 months. President Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the air campaign will continue for the duration of "the Syrian armed forces offensive operation." That doesn't sound like just an autumn campaign to us. But at the same time, one has to consider the historic combat effectiveness of Arab armies, even when they outnumber their opponents as Assad's enemies hold a 3 to 1 manpower advantage over the SAA -- at least on paper. But here's where the rubber meets the road and the fat hits the fire: how many of the 'Free Syrian Army' (FSA), Al-Nusra and Turkish Muslim Brotherhood 'Army of Conquest' legionnaires will stand and fight against Russian airpower combined with disciplined Iranian attacks?
Syrian rebels may be willing to die for their tribe or hometown if they fear themselves being captured or tortured by Assad's forces. The converse in large part is why the SAA has stubbornly fought on despite grim losses after four years -- the Allawites and Christians can expect no mercy from the likes of Al-Nusra if they surrender. But if Damascus is offering amnesty to those who lay down their arms, or better yet, there's the chance to flee to Europe for free room and board in Germany-- then what?
Do the neocons and 'humanitarian interventionists' really think masses of Syrians are eager to die for Erdogan, the Saudi princes, and the Qataris if not Allah? Do they think it's an accident the vast majority of the Syrian 'refugees' trying to reach the promised land of Germany these past several weeks were, contrary to MSM reporting, military age young Sunni Muslim males hailing from the anti-Assad rebel controlled areas?
This brings us back to the question of objectives and whether Russia's are realistic. We're told by 'think tankers' shilling for Persian Gulf Sunnistan masters like Charles Lister that Assad's army is on the ropes, controlling a heavily populated but squeezed corridor from Damascus to the coast, while having conceded vast swathes of Sunni super-majority desert territory stretching towards Jordan and Iraq to the south and west.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zlBDMr14CI[/embed] Nonetheless, we believe rapid advances are possible and humiliating defeats for Washington's 'Free Syrian' proxies are not only possible but likely, based on how quickly Russia's NAF proxies were able to rout the Ukrainian Army that was 'gaining back ground' in August and September 2014. The generally poor levels of coordination between the various rebel commanders and the inability of the CIA or allied intelligence services to coordinate them on a battlefield is very similar to the tactical and strategic weaknesses of the Ukrainian Army shortly before Kiev's forces ran into a buzzsaw at Ilovaisk, Saur Mogila and on the outskirts of Mariupol.
Another commonality with the eastern Donbass battlefield is that closer to Damascus and Latakia, the jamming frequencies are controlled by the Russians. According to Sputnik Russia has deployed the same type of ground-based electronic warfare (EW) systems that we wrote about for Rogue Money this summer see "Rumors of War with Russia Part 7: The Russian Battlefield EW 'Off Switch' is Very Real"). The only military that can credibly try to counter Russia's jammers is the Israeli Defense Forces but they are too far from Damascus or Latakia to matter and Netanyahu has already grudgingly accepted Putin's RUSSIAN no fly zone stretching out from the Syrian capitol and the Russian air bases. Why does Netanyahu pray tell swallow his pride when it comes to dealing with Putin, while trying to bully Obama through the U.S. Congress? Because even Bibi recognizes strength when he sees it, IDF and IAF generals are not stupid and realize their pilots would do far worse going up against Russian hardware today than in the 1970s, and (shhh don't tell the neocons) but a sizeable segment of the Knesset either secretly or openly admires Putin as a friend to the Jews. Plus there's the small matter of backroom negotiations about the future of Israeli Mediterranean gas through Cyprus and Greece mingled with Turkstream...
While Washington's Syrian proxies may be better equipped in terms of satellite phones and TOW anti-tank weaponry than the Ukrainians were over a year ago, one has to consider that Kiev's troops didn't suffer a single confirmed Russian air strike. Much less a months-long campaign paired with round-the-clock satellite and drone-driven targeting paired with human intelligence. In other words, after the first few Russian air strikes in close air support combined with Iran and Hezbollah's most elite troops attacking on the ground, we could see a decisive breach in the rebel coalition lines and major gains for Assad and his allies. With the Russians objective not so much helping Assad to gain back all of the territory lost to the rebels (this as Israel Shamir says is not feasible) but to force them to the negotiating table and secure Assad's eventual succession.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTxPZU4HgIk[/embed] To test Moscow's ability to coordinate its air strikes on rebel commanders, fuel and ammo dumps with an SAA/Iranian ground offensive, and to build confidence among the pro-Assad troops, the Russians will select an easier target first. A sort of Syrian version of Debaltsevo, a bulge in the rebel lines that can be pinched off. Attacking north of Latakia towards Turkey where Russian close air support can strike within 5 minutes of being airborne (only 100 kilometers away) and thus driving the rebels out of long range rocket range from areas where the Russians will be seems to be an immediate objective of the pending pro-Assad ground offensive. Russian air strikes that Moscow's Defense Ministry said inadvertently penetrated Turkish air space this week were likely a test run for the type of raids that would interdict Ankara's resupply to its 'Army of Conquest' proxies as their front lines get pulverized.
Meanwhile, pinching off salients and cleaning out some suburbs of Damascus may take longer if only due to the lower efficacy of airpower in heavily urbanized, bombed out areas. Spreading panic, and demoralizing the rebels by targeting commanders who use cellular phones or who imagined Russia could not intercept the signals of their satphones dialed into 'safe' frequencies provided by Langley also seems to be another Russian objective. Motorola satphone encryption might prevent the Russians from listening to what an Al-Nusra commander is saying or who exactly he's calling. But with SORM and high altitude electronic warfare pod equipped Su-34s scanning for such signals, Langley's encryption won't prevent triangulation for a 'Fullback' Glonass guided bomb strike!
As Crimea-based Russian military watcher Col. Cassad observed a few weeks ago, the Kremlin is supplying the SAA with its brand new BTR-82 armored personel carriers painted in desert camo, as well as stacks of Kornet anti-tank missiles of the type that devastated the Israelis Merkava tanks in the 2006 Lebanon war. With Russia owning the skies over Syria, we're confident the Russians can supply the SAA, Hezbollah and the Iranians with Kornets to carve up FSA/Al-Nusra front line posts faster than the CIA can push TOWs into its proxies hands. And the Langley boys know this. They also know the coming combined SAA/Iranian/Hezbollah ground offensive that may start as soon as this weekend will use Soviet/Russian 'shock army' tactics. Meaning the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) will likely hit the most exposed FSA/AlNusra salients first, so the less well trained SAA conscripts can pour through the breach and turn the rebels' flanks while Russian Sukhois incinerate the FSA/Nusra's expected reinforcements. This has been basic Russian armored/tactical doctrine since the Shock Army breakthroughs routed the German Wehrmacht in WWII.
4) Can America and its Mideast 'allies' turn Syria into a second Afghanistan for the Russians? Or will Washington's strategy of trying to fight Russia to the last jihadi work about as well as its plan to fight Putin to the last Ukrainian 'worked'?
Senile neocon windbag Sen. John McCain's first reaction to the Russian air strikes was to call them 'disgraceful' and to suggest that the US put man portable surface to air missiles (MANPADs) like the Stinger in the hands of the Syrian rebels. Aside from the fact that the US arm and train program equipped rebels have already surrendered their American weapons to Al-Nusra or other Al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist groups the US says it didn't intend to arm or opposes, there's another logical problem with McInsane's 'solution'. The Russians are well aware of the role Stingers played in the tail end of the Soviet Afghan campaign, and are generally either flying so low and fast at night using the Su-24's terrain following radar as to make a MANPAD lock difficult (the 'Fencer' is the Soviet equivalent to the now retired F-111 bomber that the North Vietnamese called 'whispering death' for precisely the reason that by the time you hear it, it's already dropping its bombs)...or their Su-34s are flying well above 10,000 feet and MANPAD range.
So following McInsane's plan will not only put Stinger missiles in the hands of Al-Qaeda or ISIS jihadists who could use them against civil aviation, thereby making McCain a material sponsor of terrorism under the USA Patriot Act, they're also going to be useless against the Russian jets. Russian Hind helicopters and those supplied to the Syrians and Iranians are another matter -- the Al-Nusras probably already have some Croatian or French made MANPADs to shoot down those as we've seen over the last four years of Syrian war footage.
Again, McInsane thinks the Russians have learned nothing from their Afghanistan experience and the U.S. can use the same playbook that worked in the 1980s against the Soviets against Putin. He forgot that unlike in Afghanistan, the Russians have battle hardened and effective local allies to serve as their infantry, and that every Russian soldier sent to Syria is a kontrakti professional volunteer, as opposed to the conscripts the Soviets used as the backbone of their Afghan campaign. Thus far Putin has also shrewdly denied that he plans to involve ground troops in the Russian intervention, though legally the upper chamber of the State Duma has given him authorization to deploy troops (most likely spetsnaz and advisers) has permitted him to do so.
Then there's the inconvenient fact for McInsane that unlike President Ronald Reagan's plucky Afghans, ISIS is universally despised around the planet thanks to Uncle Sam's own media noise machine. The Al-Nusra jihadists who supposedly have been fighting ISIS alongside the 'Free Syrian Army' like Daesh support shariah Islamic law, complete with burkahs for women and stoning of homosexuals and adulterers. They are hardly poster boys for a worldwide sympathy campaign to soften the 'kill Russians' rhetoric and make it more palatable beyond fanatical Cold Warriors' bloodlust.
As longtime Russia watcher Anatoly Karlin observes over at The Unz Review:
Senile Cold Warriors from McCain to cuckservative icon Tom Cotton rave and demand to knock Russian fighters out of the sky to protect their beloved Al Qaeda proteges. On the off chance this leads to WW3 and the world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R/Fallout [to which we would add -- , Americans should know that they did this to protect literal cannibals, genocidal [as in kill all apostates which means Allawite and Shi'a Muslims, while enslaving the Christians and selling off their attractive girls into sexual slavery after raping the older wives - JWS]fanatics, and – horror of horrors – homophobes...
The Soviet Union never *invaded* Afghanistan either (even if it was presented as such by the Cold Warriors). It came by request of the legitimate Afghan authorities. And it ended getting bogged down and losing the lives of 15,000 soldiers, in an ultimately futile attempt to preserve some semblance of civilization against mujahedeen financed and sponsored by the Saudis and their best friends the Americans. According to Islamist propaganda, which neocons admire greatly (at least so long as it is aimed against Russia), this provoked the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The key difference: So far Russia is only sending fighter aircraft, and military advisors who will not be actively taking part in the fighting. So long as things stay that way, the Syria intervention will not constitute a major financial commitment, or a major commitment in terms of morale and approval ratings. The worst that can happen is that a fighter pilot is captured and gruesomely executed by Al Nusra or ISIS.
That, however, runs the risk of provoking a larger-scale Russian ground intervention, especially if the SAA fails to make the hoped for advances with the help of the Russian Air Force. They could get gradually sucked in like the Americans did in Vietnam. At least this is how this argument goes in Russian liberal and some nationalist circles. But I assume the Russians are familiar with that particular history and will not fall into a similar trap, no matter how much the neocons might be wishing otherwise.
Way to go Senators McCain and Cotton! Not only do you sure know how to pick 'winners' from the scum of the earth, but you also love to show your sincere concern for the oldest Christian communities on the planet in Syria who are praying for Assad and Putin's health every day!
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQIrSR6tKJg[/embed] 5) What will be the long term consequences of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Russian/Chinese/Iranian intervention in Syria?
This is probably the most important question for readers of RogueMoney, who are less concerned with the military aspects of the superpowers clashing in Syria by proxy than they are with the consequences to the petrodollar of America losing its superpower 'street cred'. We'll let the Rogue Money 'brain trust' chew more on this in the days and weeks to come, particularly the Guerrilla and 'W' the Intelligence Insider.
Suffice to say, there is a reason Washington elites ranging from neocon Senators like Marco Rubio to Hillary Clinton to Pentagon officials whining about how 'Putin made us his prison b-tch' are alternating between rage and panic. They understand that if Russia and her allies succeed in forcing peace terms on Assad's enemies in Syria, the geopolitical dominos will start falling. Like the five part stages of grief, official Washington is still stuck on anger or denial.
Indeed, the U.S.-installed government of Iraq, now firmly aligned with Iran, has already invited the Russians to wage air strikes against ISIS on Iraqi territory. The Afghan government, which has had observer status with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) led by Russia and China, is now inquiring whether Moscow can provide air strikes on against militants on its soil. Both are huge developments if anything downplayed by U.S. mainstream media thus far.
The reason is obvious. It was the United States and not Russia which spent the last twelve years losing thousands of servicemen and spending trillions in Iraq and Afghanistan -- yet these regimes are turning to Moscow because they cannot rely on Washington! Meanwhile waiting in the wings are the younger generation of Saudi princes, who see a new 'strong horse' emerging in the Mideast, and who have openly called for the forced retirement of the Washington loyalist older hardliners that led Riyadh into the Yemen quagmire. And Egypt under the pro-Russian and Chinese regime of President Al-Sisi is also backing Russia's air campaign, despite billions in Saudi funding for Cairo!
While Turkey under Erdogan remains stuck with its crackdown on the Kurds both inside Turkey and across the border in Iraq, the deployment of Russian jets if not SAMs to Kurdish areas under Iranian auspices could soon shut down Ankara's ability to bomb Kurdish groups across borders with impunity. Perhaps aware of this fact and the potential for the Kurds to bleed the Turkish Army should they receive Russian weapons like the Kornet, Ankara downplayed the recent Russian incursion into their airspace as a mistake, rather than playing it up as NATO wanted them to do. The obvious reason is the recent talks between Putin and Erdogan after the opening of the Grand Cathedral Mosque last month in Moscow regarding re-starting construction on the Turkstream gas pipeline.
Erdogan's generals also know the score in Syria -- they are not about to sacrifice thousands of Turkish soldiers fighting the SAA only to be left in the lurch by a faithless ally in Washington. Which is why they have avoided pushing for anything more than a narrow 'buffer zone' which U.S. politicians including Hillary have proposed as a no-fly zone -- too late, as Gen. Phillip Breedlove admitted last week, Russia has already set up their own NFZ in Syria. Moscow now owns the air space over the Levant (if Lebanon turns pro-Russian given the possibility of Gazprom backing Beirut's claim to the Leviathian Mediterranean gas field) and it is Putin that Erdogan must reckon with as he seeks his own political survival. And all of this is taking place due to Russian intervention, before the fire breathing Chinese dragon makes its appearance on the Syrian battlefield.
Horse, barn door, meet the political zombie Hillary Rodham Clinton
Russian/Soviet song Polyushko Polye -- in Arabic -- likely a hit on Assad regime radio these days
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHfBIO-alTI[/embed] A somewhat crude but effective Russian propaganda video highlights the real aggressor across the entire planet -- and the human toll from 'the Empire of Chaos'