UPDATE 11 December 2016: Thanks to volunteer translators, the video showing spetsnaz operations in and around Aleppo has been updated with English subtitles (click on the CC button for ENG). Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch. - JWS
— The War Nerd (@TheWarNerd) December 11, 2016
— Rogue Money (@theroguemoney) December 10, 2016
^2/2 US-led "anti-ISIS" & anti-Syria coalition - w/out any warning or airstrikes. Again.
— Mark Sleboda (@MarkSleboda1) December 12, 2016
— maytham (@maytham956) December 12, 2016
When the Russian forces pulled out of the city less than 48 hours before it fell to an assault by an estimated 4,000 Daesh terrorists, questions about Moscow's commitment as well as the poor fighting prowess of the local Syrian National Defense Force (NDF) militias tasked with holding the city emerged in a blame game. It seems hardly anything in the way of minefields, or (inexcusably lacking) concrete hedgehog barriers to slow oncoming vehicles, or pre-sighted artillery with mortars or Kornet anti-tank missile launchers trained on the main highway ready to blast Daesh Toyota technical pickups or VBIEDs posed serious obstacles to the Daesh advance (though a numerically inferior force did hold back a superior attacking group for at least three days, more than enough time for reinforcements to be sent from Aleppo). Better yet, the defenders of Palmyra should've been equipped with multiple drones dialed in to artillery that could be used to lay down surprise arty or cluster rocket barrages, including at night, to slaughter Daeshbags approaching the city across open ground. Unfortunately the NDF seemed less well equipped or trained to deal with the armored suicide truck threat than their Iraqi PMU counterparts, who have received enough longer range RPGs and ATGMs to set off many premature detonations for many a 72 virgin seeking Daesh mother-truckers.
One Russian journalist who covers Syria suspects a cynical 'deal' was struck between Putin and Erdogan: the Turks don't interfere with Russian-backed Syrian forces taking Aleppo, and in return the Turkish Army gets to push into the Aleppo suburb of Al-Bab, as Daesh once again shows remarkable fighting spirit against only those forces neocons wish to see defeated, while melting away against the NATO member Turks and their 'moderate' jihadi proxies from Jarablus to Al-Bab. Amazing isn't it, how even while being slowly strangled in Mosul ISIS can spare thousands of men and dozens of tanks, armored vehicles and suicide VBIEDs to achieve somebody's goal of embarrassing Moscow and Damascus?
— Ivan Sidorenko (@IvanSidorenko1) December 11, 2016
The Russia Analyst would dispute this theory, as well as claims that the Russians wanted to teach Assad a lesson as to how reliant his military remains on them for intelligence, firepower and combat coordination (why would such a 'lesson' be necessary after the costly victory at Aleppo?). Instead, we think that this was a classic screw up on the Syrians part, with some surprise, sophisticated intelligence (which likely required ELINT/SIGINT 'help' to Daesh from 'you know who'), and maybe even (from some corners of the alt-media) weather modification to hinder flight operations thrown in. Certainly, whenever Russia has achieved some major success, a major strike or terrorist attack against Russian citizens or interests has occurred.
During the 2008 Olympics, Mikhail Saakashvili ordered Georgian troops to respond to a minor skirmish with Russian backed South Ossetian fighters by launching a major offensive which failed to close the Roki Tunnel, leading to a crushing Russian counterattack. During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which were relentlessly denigrated via an orchestrated smear campaign in the (post)Western media, the dirty deep state if not the State Department and CIA directly executed a coup d'etat overthrowing a Russia friendly elected government in Kiev. Then there was the alleged ISIS bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268, carrying a planeload of Russian tourists from Egypt, only weeks after Moscow infuriated the (post)Western dirty US/UK Deep State by bombing their pet jihadis. Furthermore, just days after Egyptian president and former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced Egypt's solidarity with Libya, Syria and Iraq against ISIS and other jihadist terrorists, St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in downtown Cairo gets bombed.
Fortunately, while Palmyra has a high propaganda value for the Islamic State and (post)Western detractors of Russia's campaign to liberate it last March, the War Nerd is correct: it does not represent a decisive achievement for the super terrorist army. If anything, by lengthening ISIS' supply lines and drawing manpower away from the siege of Deir Ez Zor where ISIS has been stoned by fierce SAA resistance for two years, the Daeshbags have committed their own version of Adolf Hitler's 1944-45 blunder in the Ardennes (which also involved plenty of meth-amphetamines for the teen aged shock troops dying for Wotan and the Fuehrer rather than Allah). As General Patton said at the time, now that they've come out of their Siegfried line we can kill the sons of bitches from three directions. A similarly ruthless Russian commander should hit Palmyra's flanks, cut the city off from resupply, and then kill or compel the surrender of as many Daeshbags trapped in it as possible.
Since very few civilians returned to Palmyra after the city was liberated by the SAA and Russian special forces in the spring, the Russian Air Force (RuAF) now has an opportunity to fry Daeshbags packed into Palmyra's quarters with incendiary thermite bombs. The last time we checked, no matter how badass Mikey D. Weiss thinks ISIS is, they and their Toyota pick ups burn at 800 degrees just like everybody else. Nor did the 'spoils' that Daesh bragged about seizing from the Palmyra attack add up to much, as the SAA was able to withdraw their technicals if not a few obsolete T-55 tanks in good order. We certainly hope that the TU-214 ELINT aircraft will be active in the skies high above Palmyra and Tadmur on Monday, looking for native English speaking radio chatter and seeking to triangulate the locations of any Saudi or Qatari special forces who 'aren't' embedded with the Daeshbags and directing their most recent blitz.
Nonetheless, the embarrassing setback of losing Palmyra for at least several days to a couple of weeks exposes the Syrian Arab Army's main weakness: a lack of quality manpower after five years of attrition and at least 100,000 combat deaths. Which is one of the main reasons the Russia Analyst suspects ISIS is stepping up its efforts to intimidate the Egyptians: as we've reported in previous SITREPs, Egypt is the most likely source of Sunni Arab manpower to drive Daesh across the desert and liberate Deir Ez Zor. In the north and northeast of the country where Turkish-backed and U.S.-trained Kurdish forces clash, a very different picture is emerging.
In order to march on Raqqa from the north and northwest after President elect Donald J. Trump takes office, both the Americans and Russians will have to contend with the new Sultan of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Who is showing signs as ever of playing off all sides against each other while slowly seeking his own neo-Ottoman gains. Whether the Turks' pet 'moderate' jihadis of course, will be able to hold Al-Bab after politely claiming it from retreating ISIS fighters remains to be seen. The Kurds can certainly be armed with anti-tank missiles by either the Russians or the U.S. to inflict heavier casualties on the Turks if they overstep their boundaries, and despite all the talk about how Turkey has one of the largest armies in the world, the Turkish people's willingness to absorb protracted casualties inside Syria is not nearly as high as neocons imagine. But then again, neocons like Weiss pretend the Saudi sponsors of their beloved moderate jihadists aren't losing a war and control over their border with Yemen either.
Ace Mideast reporter Elijah J. Magnier's sources in Damascus say Syria's policy has shifted in recent days to allow the Turks to advance further than previously permitted, possibly in anticipation of the fact that under President elect Trump, the Turkish Army may join a U.S.-led march on Raqqa next year. Perhaps with a Trump instead of a Hillary in the White House, the Turks aren't expected to stay in eastern Syria on a permanent basis:
What's clear is that without more manpower from Iraq, Iran, and Egypt, the SAA is overextended and can only execute offensives on limited fronts. This factor makes neocon punks like Michael 'Daeshbag' Weiss cocky enough to propose a de facto partition of Syria in The Daily Beast, with his United Arab Emirates (UAE) based Arabic translator (Weiss doesn't speak Arabic) if not handler Hassan Hassan joining in. As if President elect Trump is inclined to take advice from people who hate his guts like little Mikey...
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) December 12, 2016
According to Hassan and Weiss, Assad has given up on reclaiming the eastern part of his country dominated by the Euphrates River valley, even as the SAA garrison at Deir Ez Zor continue to fight like hell against the ISIS terrorists besieging them. Since Turkey has plenty of cannon fodder both of the Sunni Arab male and Turkish variety at its disposal, the Weiss-HH duo believe a partition can be imposed on the Syrians with minimal American troop commitment. Perhaps these idiot 'WahhabiZioCons' haven't been listening to what President elect Trump has been saying about decisively defeating Daesh and ending the era of unnecessary U.S. interventions overseas. Or maybe they really do think that merely shaving off some beards and lowering the black Daesh flag while raising that of the 'Free Syrian Army' will work in convincing the world that ISIS went away as opposed to merely changing uniforms. But we think Weiss and HH aren't factoring in how much Iraqi manpower will be freed up once the U.S. stops feet-dragging and helps the Iraqis take Mosul faster.
@RussiaInsider Thank you for this piece. Please direct all inquires about my GCC funding to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) March 30, 2015
— Kevork Almassian (@KevorkAlmassian) December 9, 2016
Like all the neocons, neither Weiss nor HH are privy to what President elect Trump and his closest advisers like retired DIA chief Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn or SecDef Gen. (USMC ret.) James 'Mad Dog' Mattis have planned for the ISIS 'caliphate'. Since neither the Saudis nor the Qataris that support Mikey's beloved jihadists have the stomach for casualties or ability to occupy the Syraq border region which Weiss and Hassan wish to claim indefinitely, the only non-SAA Sunni Arab army left to roll into Raqqa by mid-2017 with American or Russian troops is the Egyptian Army. And Egypt's commander in chief Gen. Sisi is not only tight with Flynn and retired generals like Paul Vallely, he also hates ISIS and is at odds with its supporters in Riyadh and Doha. If there is any large Sunni Arab force capable of convincing the tribal elders in the Syraq border region that Gen. Mattis knows well they won't be persecuted (even if they collaborated with Daesh), it's the Egyptians operating alongside U.S. troops.
— the Lemniscat (@theLemniscat) December 10, 2016
‘It’s clear Assad has won this war’ - former US ambassador https://t.co/3J8OuPfhLQ
— Navstéva (@Navsteva) December 12, 2016
Until President elect Trump takes office and begins to robustly implement a new policy, the dirty Deep State will continue to do its damnedest to blame or provoke Putin-- the Congress is currently trying to make any joint American/Russian military work, even against ISIS, illegal. Of course the bill contains a provision allowing the President as Commander in Chief to waive the law if national security compels it, and American national security most definitely does require at least some communication with Russian military personnel in Syria, if only to avoid air to air collisions or close calls. Still one cannot help but get the impression that the worst nightmare of Sen. John McCain and Mrs. McCain Lindsey Graham remains U.S. special forces and Russian spetsnaz posing for selfies together in a liberated Raqqa that has become the new Torgau.
Preparing for the funeral of Galina Mikhailova and Nadezhda Durachenko, two Russian nurses killed in Aleppo. pic.twitter.com/JC7lSPH0j2
— Nina 🐻 KGByzantina (@NinaByzantina) December 9, 2016
If You Are For Peace, You Are A Russian Agent! https://t.co/aW25F9OXqA
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) December 12, 2016
— Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) December 12, 2016
The Russia Analyst will have more to say regarding the increasingly hysterical whining of the CIA and the legacy media that work for them like CNN about Trump not blindly accepting their Narrative that evil Russian hackers swung the election against Hillary. But for now, we reflect on the costs of victory in Aleppo, including two female Russian medics, and remain convinced that the lives both Russian and Syrian lost in liberating Palmyra from the Daeshbags were not in spent in vain. The Daeshbags' meeting with the grim reaper will come soon, as will the exposure of their not so secret backers.
— 21st Century Wire (@21WIRE) December 11, 2016
Coming soon to Palmyra. All in black. A funeral march for terrorists. pic.twitter.com/WBi2zseCvg
— Nina 🐻 KGByzantina (@NinaByzantina) December 12, 2016