The ancients used to say that victory has a thousand fathers, while defeat is always an orphan. A more modern observer would say that nothing cures a team's ills like winning, and the same holds true for international coalitions as it does for sports franchises. Or as George C. Scott said playing the title role in Patton, "Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser." Right now it's the Russians, not the Americans who are winning big over ISIS, while neoconservatives, Atlanticists and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Sunni-firsters whine about the liberation of Palmyra. How did it come to this?
On Easter Sunday combined Syrian/Hezbollah forces completed the liberation of Palmyra, aided by Russian air strikes. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, at least 100 Islamic State fighters were killed in air strikes and the Syrian Arab Army estimates over 500 Daesh combatants died in the fight for the ancient caravan city and archaeological site.
Palmyra -- Where Daesh Jihadis and U.S./UK Government/MSM Lies Went to Die
In addition to combined Russian/Syrian forces killing hundreds of ISIS jihadis and the myth of Daesh military competency, the U.S. State Department, UK Foreign Office, and neocon-manipulated mainstream media Narrative that 'Russia and Assad aren't seriously fighting ISIS' died in the ruins of Palmyra.
What was left was for neocon jihadi apologists like the Henry Jackson Society's Kyle W. Orton to bemoan that 'the Assad regime' would exploit the victory over ISIS for propaganda value, and for State Department spokesmen Mark Toner and John Kirby to engage to answer awkward questions from journalists about whether or not it was a 'good thing' that the Syrian Arab Army and not Islamic State terrorists were now in control of a UNESCO world heritage site. Ultimately, a somewhat exasperated Kirby was forced to concede it was, while reiterating the State Department's weak 'Assad must go' refrain:
After days of ignoring the SAA's push on the desert citadel that had been a feature of Islamic State propaganda videos since late 2014, the mainstream media reluctantly conceded that yes, 'the Assad regime' was actually fighting ISIS and doing so with Russia's support. As many keen observers noticed on Twitter, 'Assad forces' suddenly became 'Syrian government' or 'loyalist' troops when it came time for Reuters and other global news services to report the liberation of Palmyra. Also noted were the attempts to falsely claim that the Syrian Arab Army had not fought for days to hold the city when ISIS initially attacked in May 2015, and lies about Daesh simply handing the territory back to the SAA without a fight and hundreds of Russian air strikes. This post by the Moon of Alabama blog debunks both myths, while pointing out that the U.S. Air Force left huge Daesh truck convoys across the desert from Iraq untouched when they attacked the undermanned SAA and local militia garrison over 11 months ago. A fact the mainstream media including neocon hacks like Daily Beast 'reporter' Michael D. Weiss tap dance around when they talk about the Islamic State's supposed staying power.
Reinforcing Success and Hot Pursuit: Destroying Daesh in the Open Desert
The most immediate effect of the SAA's smashing success at Palmyra is comparable to a pro or college football team that can run the ball at will against its opponent. Victory at the desert crossroads of Palmyra is 'opening up the (military) playbook' for Damascus, in terms of being able to attack thinly held Daesh lines from the south, west and east -- all while cleaning out pockets of Daesh jihadis to the southwest at Quraytayn. Once the Quraytayn pocket is encircled and 'cleaned up', the SAA can fully secure the critical M5 highway from Daesh attacks while advancing on the oil rich city of al-Suhkna, a critical node in what's left of the Islamic State's oil smuggling in Syria.
Capturing al-Suhkna in turn, would enable the SAA to drive on westward to Deir es Zor, Syria's 'Leningrad'. This Euphrates river valley city has been under siege first by Al-Qaeda loyalists and later Daesh for over two years. Hundreds of civilians have been kidnapped or killed by Daesh in the heavy fighting between the SAA garrison which has refused to give in, knowing surrender equals death and likely torture or beheading on camera. Lifting the siege of Deir es Zor would not only be another major morale booster for the SAA and its allies, but would also free up valuable manpower to then turn north and threaten the Islamic State caliphate's center -- Raqqa. As former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Col. Patrick Lang (USAR) writes, the reinforcement of combined SAA/Russian success at Palmyra could mark the beginning of the end for ISIS as a territory-occupying force inside Syria:
Russia Isn't Leaving Syria, It's Staying to Help Finish Off ISIS
Another salutary effect of the combined Russian/Syrian victory is to quell, at least for now, questions about Russia's commitment, having saved the Bashir al-Assad government from being overthrown, to achieving further military gains for Damascus across Syria's territory (for now, at the expense of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, both of whom are excluded from the U.S. and United Nations blessed ceasefire agreement).
Despite Russia's announcement that it was withdrawing most of its forces from the country in mid-March, Moscow kept its promise to continue air strikes against what the SAA social media warriors call the Daeshbags and 'Nusrats'. Indeed, the Russian air strikes have become more potent in some respects because they are now concentrated on a smaller set of targets and on more specific areas where Daesh and al-Nusra are being dislodged, rather than attacking scores of rebel groups across the length of the country.
In the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, for example, Russian airpower and Syrian Air Force strikes have helped to 'kettle' Jaesh al-Islam and their Al-Nusra allies in a brewing 'cauldron' that will end in either hundreds of fighters laying down arms in return for safe passage to rebel held territory in Idlib or being killed.
Russia Has Now Shed Blood Alongside Her Allies in Syria
Furthermore, no one can say that Russia did not pay a price in blood for the victory at Palmyra alongside its local allies. A 25-year-old Russian forward air controller, Alexandr Prokhorenko, chose a quick death by calling in a strike on his own surrounded position, over being captured, filmed and tortured to death by Daesh. Prokhorenko, who hailed from a small village in Orenburg region, is survived by his wife Ekaterina and their unborn child.
There are also unconfirmed reports that multiple Russian private military contractors (PMCs aka mercenaries) from the GRU-linked "Russian Blackwater" Wagner were killed by Daesh on the outskirts of Palmyra. Anti-Russian media operations such as the U.S. taxpayer sponsored The Interpreter played up the Islamic State's grisly propaganda video about the dead Russian mercenaries -- though the Ft. Russ blog published allegations that at least some of Daeshbags' 'dead Russians' footage may have been faked.
Above: a Russian soldier and a few of his new friends teaching him Shi'a Muslim slogans, until the Russian says "I am Ali" (cousin of Muhammed revered by Shi'a Muslims who was also a son in law of the prophet). For fear of ISIS infiltrators and suicide attacks, American GIs have not embedded this closely with their Iraqi allies fighting the Islamic State across the old Sykes-Picot drawn border dividing Mesopotamia
After releasing the name of the 25-year-old hero Prokhorenko, the Russian Defense Ministry made no secret of the fact that its spetsnaz commandos played a key role in the Palmyra/Tadmur battle. Since October, the Russians are not only exceeding the U.S. in the tempo of air strikes against Islamic State targets, they are also demonstrating a greater willingness to fight the terrorists directly on the ground -- even though the Russians prefer to train and equip the SAA and Hezbollah to direct combat.
In the course of the battle for Palmyra Russia heavily employed Mi-24P gunships, and also deployed its newer and faster Mi-28 'Alligator' attack helicopters, which resemble a Russian version of the USA's AH-64 Apache. TOS-1 rocket flamethrowers, MSTA self-propelled howitzers and T-72s upgraded with infra-red jamming systems designed to confuse anti-tank missiles were also employed, as were many Toyota 'technicals' equipped with anti-aircraft guns and teams of Hezollah and SAA Kornet anti-tank missileers to counter any TOW jihadis on the battlefield.
As in Iraq, more anti-tank missiles in more hands also means soldiers have a better chance of blowing up VBIEDs driven by ISIS suicide bombers before they can explode in their lines -- negating one of the tactics the Daesh terrorists have used to great effect. Jabhat al-Nusra and its terrorist allies also found out the hard way, with their recent failed attack on the SAA in south Aleppo, that simply sending swarms of suicide pick up truck bombs or armored personnel carriers packed with explosives at loyalist forces' lines no longer works. As with so many things in life and in war, there is no silver bullet that defeats the enemy, but a series of qualitative and morale improvements that allow even outnumbered SAA forces to rout less organized and disciplined jihadists -- what the Hollywood screenwriter John Milius once called obtaining 'peace through superior firepower'.
Elijah J. Magnier, one of the best reporters covering the Syria conflict today, writes for Kuwait's Al-Rai Media that Al-Qaeda isn't waiting for the combined SAA/Russian forces to finish off Daesh and then turn its sights exclusively on them. The 'Nusrats' and their allies in the Turkish and Saudi funded 'Army of Conquest' are likely to press their attacks, probing for thinly held parts of the SAA ceasefire lines, hoping to achieve some sort of temporary breakthrough. Their problem is that even with the SAA still suffering from manpower shortages, the old tactics of VBIED and swarming pick up truck jihadi aren't working anymore, thanks to Russian airpower and bend-but-don't-break tactics for active defense:
He Who Dares Wins -- Russia is Daring and Winning, But Will it Take a New President to Wholeheartedly Partner with Russia to Crush Daesh?
As we mentioned above, Russia's success in helping the SAA push back Daesh has come as a great embarrassment to the Washington/London Establishment. It has destroyed the shameless lie presented by British Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond as recently as February that "Putin is strengthening ISIS in Syria". It has undermined in one swoop the narrative, still bitterly clung to by the Atlantic Council and other NATO-holics, that "Russia almost exclusively targeted non-ISIS targets".
Even Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and Tory heir apparent to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, has written an op-ed condemning Assad but saying 'bravo' to his Army and the Russians for saving an ancient archaeological treasure in Palmyra. As the UK Guardian reports, "The London mayor said the Russian president deserved credit for showing 'ruthless calrity' in providing Bashar al-Assad's regime with military backing, reportedly including troops on the ground". In a development that will raise eyebrows among analysts of New World Order occultists like team Rogue Money's 'W the Intelligence Insider' and @BanksterSlayer, Boris Johnson also wants British archaeologists to help restore the ruins at Tadmur/Palmyra that ISIS blew up.
All of this is in contrast to the Pentagon, which, whether out of President Barack Obama's fear of casualties or official Washington (and Ankara, and Riyadh, and Doha's) desire not to let a Shi'a led Iraqi government take back predominantly Sunni areas from ISIS, has dragged its feet on greater engagement. Thus reinforcing the impression, lamented in this blog post by Col. Lang, that Obama was never serious about fighting ISIS...or even the alternative or new media's belief that the worst elements of the U.S. Deep State created the super-terrorist group in the first place. That in the words of John B. Wells and the Guerrilla: "ISIS is US-is".
Part of the negative impression of U.S. commitment to if not competency in fighting ISIS is underscored by the number of American generals now supervising the offensive. According to The Daily Beast, at least 21 flag officers are directing traffic, logistics, fire support and training for the anti-ISIS mission in the Syraq AO. As the old expression goes, 'too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth' and it would be hard to shake the conclusion that either serious GFO resume padding is going on right now, or Obama is letting the offensive against Daesh inch rather than roll forward, even as the clock runs out on his presidency.
The cost of course, of not hitting the enemy hard and fast the way Gen. George S. Patton or Douglas MacArthur did (two of Donald Trump's military heroes, according to recent interviews with the billionaire presidential candidate) is paid in lives -- both those lost by Daesh Iraqi/Syrian victims under the super-terrorists' occupation, as well as European and American lives lost to ISIS terror. Like the wife of a U.S. Air Force officer from Corpus Christi, Texas who died in an Islamic State suicide bombing of the Brussels airport in Belgium that also wounded her husband and their three children. Or the Marine who was killed by an ISIS rocket attack on his USMC firebase. The body of Staff Sergeant Louis F. Cardin was returned to his hometown of Temecula, California last week.
Next January, the USA may finally get a President who cares more about crushing ISIS than exploiting the terror group's propaganda and attacks on behalf of his globalist handlers, or who wants victory more than he begrudges sharing credit for it with the Russians and leaving Assad in power. By that time, the war may be all but won by the Syrians and their Russian partners -- without much help from Washington's failing empire builders.
In the days since the Palmyra battle was won, Reuters reports no signs that the 'Syria Express' arms convoys through the Bosporus to the Syrian coast have slowed -- in fact the arms shipments are increasing. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Army slogs forward against Daesh, making some progress up the Euphrates River valley that is the spine of the Islamic State's 'caliphate' -- but still not yet threatening the Daeshbags' grip on the million resident city of Mosul.
It seems not only likely, but probable, that the SAA will be on the outskirts of Raqqa by mid to late summer. Meaning, unless Daesh suddenly melts away before an American and Gulf Arab 'peacekeeper' advance, the so-called 'race to Raqqa' will be won by the Syrian Arab Army and their Russian and Iranian advisers.
As with the end of WWII push to Berlin, in the 'race to Raqqa' or 'race to the Euphrates' we've described here at RogueMoney since November 2015, the Russians will get there first. Russian military moves, including the deployment of Moscow's hypersonic tactical missile system the Iskander-M, seem designed to deter NATO member Turkey from directly entering the conflict to 'defeat (save) ISIS', and ensure a negotiated peace settlement on Moscow's terms.