Pro-Syrian government media announced Tuesday that the Syrian Arab Army and National Defense Forces had linked up with the SAA defenders of the Kuwairis military airport northeast of Aleppo, lifting a siege that had lasted off and on for nearly 35 months (!). While progress in the SAA offensive backed by Russian airpower over the past month has been slow, this victory marks an important milestone for the Eurasian axis' strategy to force a peace settlement to the bloody four and a half year long, U.S.-Turkey-GCC sponsored Syrian conflict. The BBC reports:
The successful assault on the base comes a week after the Syrian army battled Islamic State to regain control of a road southeast of Aleppo and took back control of the government's only supply route into the city.
Areas around Aleppo have seen weeks of heavy fighting after Syrian troops, backed by Lebanese and Iranian fighters, launched an offensive to retake surrounding territory from rebels and jihadist fighters.
The regime offensive has so far focused on clearing rebel-held areas south of Aleppo, rather than targeting the city itself.
Why was the Kuwairis air base so important to the Syrian strategy to encircle Aleppo and cut the supply lines for the Islamic State and other jihadist forces? Because the air base itself runs along a critical highway from ISIS and rebel-held parts of Aleppo city to the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. While the SAA still has a lot of work to do in order to consolidate the bridgehead to the base and destroy the ISIS positions around it, the Syrians have managed to plant one boot firmly on the ankle of ISIS. The super terrorist group's reputation for alleged battlefield invincibility, already reeling from defeats at the hands of the U.S.-backed Kurds in northern Syria, now has taken another hit.
ISIS will certainly counterattack furiously in an attempt to cut the narrow road leading to the base from both sides. However much like ISIS unsuccessful offensive against a much longer stretch of highway to government-held territory around Aleppo last week, the Islamic State counterattacks will likely fail. That's because whereas ISIS can rely on cover and concealment in defense, as can the other jihadist groups amply supplied with U.S.-made TOW missiles from Saudi Arabia, trying to attack Syrian forces in the open risks devastating strikes from high altitude Russian jets and low flying helicopter gunships.
The Islamic State's previously successful tactics of using captured BMP armored vehicles packed with explosives driven by suicide drivers to breach SAA lines and send government troops retreating from large, demoralizing blasts have run into the buzzsaw of better Syrian tactics and most likely, more advanced Russian rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and Kornet ATGMs in the hands of SAA soldiers. Newer Russian weapons and likely Russian or Chinese provided night vision scopes have also allowed SAA snipers and Kornet gunners to kill ISIS jihadis trying to infiltrate or scout their lines at night. At Deir Ezzor, another air base Syrian troops have been defending from ISIS siege for months, Islamic State fighters died by the dozens last week when an armored suicide vehicle attack on the defenders failed and Russian jets appeared to bomb their armored vehicles and pick up trucks.
According to Southfront analysis, the SAA also managed to advance in the area near Al-Salamiyah over the weekend, making ISIS task of supplying its exposed flanks in southeastern Hama province. Pro-Hezbollah Lebanese news source al-Masdar News says the SAA will soon launch an assault against the non-ISIS rebels in northeastern Latakia province, further threatening the precious supply lines to Turkey that run through the Idlib plain for the Saudi-Qatari bankrolled 'moderate' head choppers. The same 'moderates', fresh off their brave use of Allawite women as human shields against Russia air strikes east of Damascus last week, have killed 23 people with two terrorist rockets launched against civilians in the secular pro-government heartland city of Latakia near the Mediterranean.
Rapid Destruction of ISIS in Northeastern Syria this Winter Would Make Things Very Awkward, if Not Desperate, for Washington and Ankara
If the bridgehead around the Kuwairis military airport is expanded to a perimeter out of mortar if not rocket range, then the prospect of using the base for insertion of Iranian troops and supplies if not Iran's ground attack jets and choppers opens up. That in turn would likely further pinch off and demoralize the soon to be encircled rebels inside Aleppo city while making a two-headed offensive to the west towards Idlib (thereby threatening the vital ISIS Euphrates supply line) and east (into ISIS territory) possible. As we stated on the Friday night Guerrilla Radio program, the Euphrates lifeline is the logistical spine of the Islamic State. If you sever it, the Islamic State dies and the destruction of the jihadist rebel groups left in northern if not eastern Syria becomes a mopping up operation (which is not to say that some lower to mid level insurgency would not continue in eastern and southeastern Syria for years to come).
French MP: 'Moderate' Syrian jihadists Washington imagines to be fighting against Assad don't actually exist, Europeans willing to talk with Assad
The only counter the U.S., Turkey and their Persian Gulf Sunni Arab state allies would then have to avoid total defeat in Syria is carving out a Turkish-supplied, Sunni Arab rebel enclave near autonomous Kurdish territory. That is of course, after ISIS is routed, and the Islamic State suddenly folding up tents and retreating to Mosul after losing their Raqqa redoubt would be a telltale sign of unseen string pullers issuing orders for ISIS to live to fight (and if need be, die) another day somewhere else. Not unlike, as some tell it, the collapse of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in November 2001 Afghanistan only for the latter to bide their time for a comeback.
The widely reported in pro-Persian media account of Saudi Arabia and Qatar flying ISIS jihadists out of Mosul airport to Yemen a fortnight ago suggests that both Moscow and Tehran are aware that ISIS not-so-hidden handlers may wish to save their assets from encirclement and death. Per Sun Tzu's maxim of leaving enemies an 'out' rather than cornering them into a fight to the death, there may have been a tacit Iranian-Russian agreement on this subject, though the Iranian or Russian air forces shooting down the Saudi-Qatari chartered planeload of jihadists over western Iraq's Anbar province was never in the cards. But Washington's 'Plan C' option is something the Obama Administration is clearly counting on now that 'Plan B' of 'use the Islamic State and rebels combined to topple Assad' has failed. Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times, the Brazilian globetrotter who coined the term 'Empire of Chaos', however, doesn't think Ashton "Russia may suffer terror attacks for its intervention in Syria" Carter and the Pentagon can square the Kurdish-Turkish circle. A 'soft underbelly' to U.S. strategy if Washington has one the breach in ISIS flanks at Kuwairis exposes:
ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is active in central Syria alongside Jaysh al-Fatah, an Islamist coalition with quite a few members affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria. In the Hama frontlines, the fake “Caliphate” and al-Nusra are de facto allies. Ash cannot possibly find “capable” allies here.
But there’s an enormous back door. Al-Nusra got into camouflage, changing their gear for Ahrar al-Sham’s, which the Beltway hails as “moderate rebels.” Ahrar al-Sham is in fact a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, fully supported by Turkey.
So no wonder everyone wants to join the “moderate rebel” bandwagon, hoping to be showered with made in USA anti-tank TOW missiles. That includes outfits such as the brigade Tawhid Al Asimah in Damascus, the brigade Wa Atasimu also in Damascus, the Abu Amarah batallion in Aleppo, the brigade martyr Ahmad Al-Omar, and the Binaa Umma movement active in Deraa and Quneitra. Working with this lot may be Ash’s opening. But that implies sending fresh American troops all over Syria.
And now, the 50 immortals
But first the Special Forces deployed to northern Syria — Obama’s 50 immortals — need to fulfill their mission. Say one name: Kuweyres. Everything depends on what happens in Kuweyres, a military airbase.
Here are the facts on the ground. The SAA, at least for now, has secured its all-important supply route to Aleppo. What they’re aiming for next – supported by Russian air strikes – is much more complicated; cut off for good the resupply routes from Turkey for the gaggle of Salafi-jihadis/”moderate rebels.”
Arguably the only local “capable” force for this mission is the Syrian Kurd YPG. But to solidify their position, the YPG need to build a strong link between Kobani and the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
And guess why they can’t do it; because the Pentagon is telling them to strike south instead, towards Raqqa, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh “capital.” And Turkish intelligence – which controls the resupply corridor – warned the YPG they will be bombed to oblivion if they try to expand their northern Syria base.
So the YPG needs protection to keep moving. It won’t come from Ash’s people. And the Russians are far away, with no boots on the northern Syrian ground.
The SAA though is only a few kilometers away from Kuweyres. It will be a nasty battle. But if they capture the military air base, they get the perfect hub for Russian and Syrian jets to protect the YPG as they close the gap between Kobani and Afrin.
The Pentagon well knows the Russians have made a deal with the Syrian Kurds; the SAA, with as much Russian support as possible, takes Kuweyres; the YPG advances towards Afrin; and the Russians keep the Turks in check. Without this chain of crucial events, it will be virtually impossible for the “4+1” – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – to cut off the Turkish-enabled resupply corridor for the myriad Salafi-jihadi/”moderate rebel” gaggle.
The Obama Administration's Apparent New Syria Strategy: Not WWIII, But Carving Out a Sunni Enclave for Rebels to Threaten Assad Another Day
The U.S.-backed 'moderate Syrian rebel' redoubt theory regarding 'the plan' would go a long way toward explaining what the fifty declared U.S. special ops troops being sent to Syrian Kurdistan will be doing, though as we've said the primary risk to these soldiers' lives comes not from the Islamic State or an inadvertent clash with Russian spetsnaz counterparts, but the Turkish air force bombing the Kurds. Writing over at his blog, retired Green Berets Army Col. W. Patrick Lang is wargaming the possibility that Russia could introduce its sophisticated S-400/Pantsir air defense systems into Kuweiris or another secured base in northern Syria to permanently ground Turkish air attacks on the Kurds next year.
The not widely understood in alternative much less mainstream media nexus between the oil rich Iraqi Kurds and Anglo-American energy majors with previous links to Russia like ExxonMobil and BP we've documented might factor into high level lobbying for a Kurdistan federation being birthed in 2016. Not only would the creation of an independent and oil rich Kurdistan allied with the United States allow Washington to salvage something from its spectacularly failed Syria, Iraq and Iran policies, but it would also permit the globalists to keep stirring the pot in a region that might otherwise naturally fall under Persian, and hence Eurasian axis hegemony.
The biggest loser of such a decision by Washington, Moscow and Tel Aviv (which imports over half of its oil from the Iraqi Kurds) would of course, be Turkey. Iran and Iraq have already, albeit grudgingly in Baghdad's case made their peace with Kurdish autonomy. And for his part, Erdoğan is still 'free' to suddenly switch sides to the Eurasian axis and quietly abandon his jihadist proxies and ISIS. That is, if the neo-Ottoman sultan is not only ready for the bad press regarding his authoritarian power grab and suppression of Turkish Kurds, but also whatever kompromat Washington has been saving on Turkish intel's intimate relations with the Islamic State getting 'leaked' to The Washington (Langley) Post.
Turkey: The Biggest Loser Who Winds Up Under Washington's Bus
The problem is that Erdoğan at this point is truly a man with no friends. The AKP government has been permanently scarred by contradictory interests pursued with reckless arrogance and perhaps, misplaced faith in the trustworthiness of Washington, Doha and Riyadh's promises (in this case, the Empire of Chaos' line to the Turks would be the one from Animal House, 'you f---ed up, you trusted us'). Erdoğan is known to all the players including the reeling Saudi royals as the player with the fastest-dwindling stack of chips at the Mideast poker table. Other than the doddering king Salman whose energetic heir apparent bin Salman is already making key decisions for, Erdoğan is the man most at risk of being yanked from the table and taken to the back of the casino with a new poker player getting re-dealt in his place.
Whether Ankara ultimately accepts a Russian lifeline whereby the Turks cut the flow of arms and manpower from their Euphrates valley border to the jihadists and ISIS like the Jordanians have in the south is an interesting question. The obvious payoff to the Turks would be Moscow leaving the SAA and Iran, rather than the Kurds, in charge of the Euphrates valley borderland zone Erdoğan's NATO member air force has heretofore kept safe for ISIS. Turkstream remains on the table though the smart money is leaning toward Erdoğan blowing the tremendous opportunity that project presents his country to dominate the flow of gas to Europe alongside Russia, including from future Persian mega-gas projects. But all of this goes back to the question the Guerrilla pressed me for answers on Friday night, which is what's going on with Iran?
A Russian air strike on a jihadist occupied building in Darayya, southeast of Damascus
When Will Iran Reinforce Its Few-Thousand Man Expeditionary Force in Syria? As friends of Russia's intervention in Syria over at the Saker and Moon of Alabama blogs are starting to ask, when will we see a substantial commitment of Iranian army manpower for Damascus' decisive winter offensive in Syria? Although Moscow has sent its 58th army commanders and doubled the number of personnel it has in Syria to over 4,000, Putin has already ruled out providing ground troops as opposed to more airpower for the decisive battles ahead. Nor is China going to do it even if we believe Beijing will bomb ISIS in Iraq and probably provide major 'lend lease' arms flows to its allies in Syria, Iraq and Iran before the war on the Islamic State is over.
RT covers the difficult fighting to push jihadists out of strong points in northeastern Latakia province
Thus far we've seen only a few thousand IRGC, Hezbollah and foreign Afghan and Iraqi Shi'a ally soldiers fighting in Syria, many of them Hezbollah veterans of the successful Lebanese campaign to oust the Israelis in 2006. While Hezbollah has been a huge help to the SAA advances south of Aleppo and near the Lebanese border The vast bulk of Iran's available expeditionary manpower appears to be lying in wait, or perhaps is being readied in reserve for urban combat as necessary in and around Aleppo (while as we told the Guerrilla Friday night, airpower and mobility are keys in desert warfare, just ask Erwin Rommel or Norman Schwarzkopf). The fighting direction of Palmyra for example, on the eastern Syrian desert highway to the besieged SAA outpost of Deir es Zor, has received more coverage in Russian media of late. Western MSM have been slower to pick up on the significance of these moves, since the fighting is occurring far from the most populated suburban battlefields around Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.
When was the last time you saw footage of some scumbag ISIS commander carrying one of his wounded?
Operation Palmyria Fox -- The Storm Brewing Along ISIS Weak Desert Flank as it Faces Sledgehammer Blows in the North Near Aleppo
Nonetheless, we believe what the Russian 58th Army commanders are planning will soon emerge as a nightmare for the Islamic State's Turkish, Iraqi Baathist and shall not be named other handlers in the wide-open-to-air-attack desert lands between Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor. If logistics over lengthy highway distances are difficult to protect for spread-thin armies like the SAA, which have access to paradrops, they are even more difficult for terrorists like the Islamic State not well versed in estimating their own supply needs. In short, what we expect is coming for ISIS is a 'right hook' or right pincer move that even the late 'Stormin' Norman' or the Desert Fox could appreciate, with SAA/Iranian/spetsnaz forward air controllers leapfrogging behind ISIS thinly held lines in the region to open them up to a sudden advance that cuts the southern flank of ISIL in two. The key to any such rapid advance over long distances of course, being sufficient logistics and heavy air support from drones, jets and attack helicopters.
Syrian gunship pilots make like their Russian counterparts, striking ISIS positions near the ancient city of Palmyra
Meanwhile, to the north, securing a wide perimeter around Kuweires would allow large Russian Antonov airlifters to bring Iranian soldiers in for the big drive to the Euphrates and to link up with the U.S-sponsored Kurds. But there remain many questions regarding Russian-Saudi-UAE negotiations, and Iranian willingness to take heavy casualties in order to achieve a decisive victory in Syria -- especially if Turkey tries to directly intervene for the sake of establishing that non-Kurdish, U.S.-backed enclave we talked about above. The negotiations going on behind closed doors between Moscow, the Saudis, the UAE, and the Turks about oil, gas and the future of Syria must be very interesting indeed to NSA/GCHQ and Mossad.
Southfront analysis of Egypt's course after the terrorist attack on the Russian MetroJet charter jet -- to save its tourist trade and gain further trust with Moscow and Beijing, Cairo must come down hard on Qatar's pet jihadists in the Sinai
One thing all of the parties to the Mideast no limits poker match are aware is this: the Saudi players, once the richest at the table, are bleeding financial and military 'chips' fast. The war in Yemen is Iran's trump card over the imaginary (according to Washington neocons) prospect of Saudi Arabia fighting Assad and the Russians in Syria to the last Sunni jihadist. Months after our friend Dr. Jim Willie said that Yemen would prove to be the Saudis' Vietnam, a Saudi-led 'coalition' that has to import Colombian, Eritrean or Sudanese mercenaries to fight for it as the UAE forces look for the exits is clearly bogged down in deep s--t, to use a military-technical term.
Yemeni Houthi RPG slams into a U.S.-built Saudi Bradley infantry fighting vehicle at point blank range
Here is Iranian Press TV's footage of Houthi and Yemeni tribesmen fighters incursion last week into the town of Rabuah, inside the Saudi Kingdom: