After weeks-long ceasefire negotiations that their jihadist and Saudi/Turkish proxy enemies used to regroup, the Syrian Arab Army is back on the offensive and so is the Russian Air Force in the skies over Syria. On the East Ghouta front east of Damascus the SAA and Hezbollah are chopping up the rebel factions into near-encircled pockets of resistance. To the south of Damascus, a shaky ceasefire is holding in the town of Daraya which has been a logistics hub for arms flows to the rebels from Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. In the west, SAA mortar and artillery fire exchanges continue with besieged rebels in Zabadani near the Lebanese border despite the U.S.-Russian negotiated truce to permit humanitarian aid into the city.
As East Ghouta Falls to the SAA, the Aleppo and Eastern Desert Fronts Heat Up
However, the main fronts are developing in the north where the SAA is preparing an assault to finally cut the Castillo road, the last highway into the rebel-held portion of Aleppo. After Russian diplomats complained about the continued flow of jihadists and arms from Turkey to the rebel-held territories, the highway has come under intensive Russian aerial and Syrian artillery bombardment in the last few days. There is yet no indication that it has been decisively cut to all rebel arms flows, which is why the SAA's elite Tiger Forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Suheil Al Hassan are massing to block it.
Although the Tiger Forces do not have sufficient manpower to actually take the rebel end of Aleppo, they can force the various jihadist groups to furiously counterattack in order to prevent the arms flow to their comrades in the city from being completely cut. This somewhat negates the manpower and guerrilla force advantages that the rebels have and forces them to fight as conventional infantry along a predictable axis of attack that can be hammered by Russian bombs and SAA artillery/cluster munition rocket fire. In other words, Saudi Arabia and Turkey's proxies are being drawn by a Russian general staff created plan into a meatgrinder fight they can't hope to win, only stalemate.
The Idlib Hospital Air Strike That Didn't Actually Hit the Hospital
Perhaps recognizing that little can be done to save their jihadists in Aleppo from encirclement, the Turks and Saudis have returned to the propaganda offensive in lieu of military intervention. An air strike on a building located very close to a hospital in the Al-Nusra and Army of Conquest terrorist group held city of Idlib not far from the Turkish border was spun into a Russian atrocity, filmed in gory detail by members of the George Soros-funded, Al-Qaeda cooperating 'British NGO' the White Helmets.
From the Moon of Alabama blog:
Not a Hospital, Not a Russian Strike, Not Civilian - Propaganda Fail in Syria
The Russian Ministry of Defense denies conducting any air raids over Idlib province in recent days, and it's entirely possible the raid which reportedly killed several Nusra jihadist commanders and their families as well as civilians in neighboring buildings was conducted instead by Syrian Air Force MiG-23s that have been upgraded for night operations and with Russia's SVP-24 GLONASS guided system for dropping 'dumb bombs'. Pro-SAA social media accounts have responded to allegations of another 'Russian/Assad massacre' by arguing that Jabhat al-Nusra -- Al-Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria -- deliberately conducts meetings and places ammo stocks as close to hospitals as possible and frequently using mosques as command centers.
Has the Race to Raqqa Begun, or is Relieving Deirezzor the 'Desert Hawks' Aim?
The SAA's well-trained 'Desert Hawks' brigade are spearheading an advance against Daesh in eastern Homs with at least 5,000 men, some of whom are from pro-Damascus and Ba'ath party militias. After the much ballyhooed ISIS counterattacks at the Al-Sha'er gas fields ended in failure and scores of dead Daeshbags, IS has been focused on pressuring the besieged SAA garrison at Deirezzor in southeastern Syria. But the defenders do not appear to lack ammunition or anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that they are using with devastating precision against poorly trained Daesh cannon fodder 'who wants to volunteer to be today's suicide Toyota driver' attacks.
As this footage of intense combat shows, ISIS losses on that front appear to be rising at the very moment when the Daeshbags are getting killed by the dozens every day in their doomed defense of Fallujah across the border in Iraq's Anbar province. There are rumors that Daesh commanders have already abandoned Fallujah with their families leaving behind the young, dumb and hot for 72 virgins jihadis to slow the Iraqi Army and its Shi'a militia allies' advance with IEDs and suicide truck bomb attacks.
Nonetheless, these men are clearly tired if not exhausted from months of near-urban combat against Daesh and the SAA would like to relieve them both for morale and logistical reasons. Lifting the siege of Deirezzor will allow the SAA and its allied militias to consolidate their control over the highways of the eastern desert, and open the gates to a surge of friendly Iraqi Shi'a fighters from across the border. 'Free Syrian Army' efforts to block this link up, most likely promoted by the CIA through Jordan, are unlikely to succeed as the Iraqis can easily sweep aside Washington's proxies who would try to prevent the SAA and Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi forces from linking up with a little help from the Russian Air Force.
A Rare Confluence of Interests Between Washington and Moscow:
How Both the U.S. and Russia Are Playing the Kurdish Card Against Turkey
If Daesh is getting closer to collapse, the Turks want to be part of any post-Caliphate settlement, if necessary using their own troops for the job. Unfortunately the Turks are unlikely to be able to secure the air space over Raqqa or other parts of the defeated Caliphate without using the USAF as shielding from Russian S400, Pantsir and SAA manned BUK SAMs blowing Turkey's F-16 jets out of the sky.
As has become evident to all military analysts who understand the cautious nature of the Turkish high command, Turkey's military will only mount an invasion of northern Syria in force if the U.S. gives it assurances of providing American troops as human shields from Russian, Iranian and Syrian counterattack. Unfortunately for Turkish President turned dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's neo-Ottoman ambitions, the Pentagon does not appear willing to throw its YPG Kurdish allies entirely under the bus after arming and training them and affiliated Arab tribes of the non-Assad linked Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to fight Daesh. Thus, the Turkish offer of joint operations with U.S. Special Operations Command (JSOC) against ISIS has apparently been turned down by Washington.
The Russia Analyst explained all of this, including the 'Deep State' forces that Dr. Joseph P. Farrell thinks have put modern Turkey's borders 'on the menu' for a carve up, back in February (see "Neo-Ottoman Rumors of War, Addendum"). The bottom line is that there's no honor among thieves, and the Turkish Deep State cannot trust Washington not to wring its hands but ultimately do nothing should Turkey's invasion of northern Syria be met with massive Russian firepower and a surge of VDV and Iranian paratroopers ready to kill thousands of Turkish soldiers. In case the Turks had any doubts about Russian and Iranian resolve, those have been answered by Erdogan's allegation that Russia is secretly arming the YPG-linked PKK group across the border inside Turkey.
Ankara and Washington both label the PKK a terrorist organization but thus far, Washington has refused angry Turkish pleas and pressure from Turkey's lawmaker lobbyists on Capitol Hill like Sen. Lindsey Graham to cease arming and training the YPG. This is why we see a lot of whining from neocon Saudi-firsters like Qatari-shill Charles Lister of the Brookings Doha Center or obnoxious Brit Kyle W. Orton of the UK's Henry Jackson Society.
Why Putin Agreed to the Ceasefire in Syria Moscow Knew Would Be Temporary:
Russia Needed Kurdish Insurance Against a Turkish Invasion of Northern Syria
While Vladimir Putin caught a lot of flak from Russian, Syrian and Iranian hardliners over the naivete of Moscow's ceasefire deal with Washington, it should be pointed out here that the territory controlled by the U.S. Special Forces-backed YPG/SDF has expanded, even if the U.S. backed forces aren't killing as many CIA-backed 'moderate' jihadis as they were before. Furthermore, while some SAA sources have dismissed the YPG/SDF offensive in the northern Raqqa countryside as a sideshow that poses no threat to the ISIS Caliphate capitol on the Euphrates, it does serve several useful purposes from the Kremlin's viewpoint.
First, while the neocons and the 'no boots on the ground' Obama White House have colluded for over 20 months to wage a half-assed, fraudulent campaign against ISIS and perform as few air strikes against actual important targets as possible, mostly striking empty desert, once U.S. forces are committed to a task the natural inclination of combat commanders is to 'win' by pushing against the enemy force (if only for career advancement purposes, but also because at least some U.S. generals sincerely care about their men and Green Beret-trained charges, particularly in JSOC).
Second, the wounding of two JSOC soldiers this past weekend while conducting their supposedly 'non-combat missions' in the northern Raqqa outskirts, as well as the widely publicized scandal of American special operators wearing patches given to them by the YPG angering Turkey serves Moscow's ends. These developments increase the distrust between U.S. generals and their Turkish counterparts, because the former if they have any brains know damn well Daesh has been aided and abetted if not created by the Turks.
The JSOC guys also know full well from whence Daesh gets a great deal of its ammunition and supplies, which is precisely why, as retired Army Col. Patrick Lang reports at his blog, the Green Berets are moving to cut off ISIS' lifeline to Turkey. And since this offensive is being conducted largely out of range for all but Turkey's longest range MLRS and the Turks can't bomb the YPG without potentially killing U.S. Army special operators or getting shot down by Russian SAMs, there's not a damn thing Erdogan can do about it.
Given these realities, which vindicate the reporting of Thierry Meyssan and Webster Griffin Tarpley that Putin and Obama struck a deal to defang the neo-Ottoman Empire, it's no wonder Erdogan has started ranting about why Turkish women shouldn't use any birth control instead of geopolitics lately. It's also no coincidence that more negative headlines like these have been appearing in (post)Western media and PKK attacks are increasing in their brazenness since Turkey refused to 'play ball' with the globalists who want a greater Kurdistan.
Are the 'Good Guys' in the Pentagon Finally Overcoming the Scumbags Who've Been Playing Patty-cake with ISIS in Deference to the Turkish and Neocon Saudi Lobby?
Thanks to the secret 'deal' that was likely struck between a briefcase carrying Secretary of State John Kerry and Putin and Lavrov several weeks ago in Moscow, the Neo-Ottoman Sultan's 'red line' is meaningless and his threats to invade northern Syria to carve out a 'safe zone' are empty bluster:
Every square mile of territory the YPG Kurds liberate with JSOC assistance is another piece of land they're unlikely to want to yield at the negotiating table because their old enemies the Turkish Army rolled in at the eleventh hour to claim 'victory' over a Daesh proxy the YPG know the Turks created. In practical terms this means the Kurdish buffer between the combined SAA/Hezbollah/Iranian forces Putin is backing and the Turks continues to expand, and with the Pentagon's blessing.
From Putin's perspective why take the risk of a huge President Hillary Clinton ordered 'how about you and him fight' war with Turkey next year that would be ruinously expensive for Ankara and Moscow, when you can instead, allow the Americans to take the lead in a key area Damascus isn't going to be able to reclaim or hold for the long term anyway? Thus the chess player Putin is outfoxing his neocon enemies in Washington once again. Like their notions of stumping the Turmp, the neocons dream of fighting Russia, Assad and Iran to the last Turk are vanishing in the Mideast desert air. Unfortunately for Assad's hopes of restoring full control over all of pre-war Syria, the price of this blocking of Turkish, Saudi and neocon ambitions in Syria is a federated state emerging from the rubble in which the Kurds will be all but independent.
Whether the Assad government and the Iranians like it or not, a new Kurdish homeland called Rojava that will enjoy full autonomy from the Assad government is now a fact on the ground. Whether Ankara likes it or not, several powerful Big Oil and globalist factions from Washington to Paris to Tel Aviv and the City of London see a Syrian Rojava linking oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan to a small coastal strip still controlled by Damascus (and de facto, Russia) on the Mediterranean as advantageous. If nothing else, it gives the oil majors eager to pump crude out of Kurdistan for the next forty years a stronger negotiating position with the Turks over pipeline fees to reach the Med. But the bigger picture is that the Israelis want powerful and oil-rich Kurdish ally right in the middle of the Persian, Turkish and Arab nations. The Kremlin, which has quietly come to various understandings with the Israelis, reconciled itself to these facts many months ago when it permitted the YPD political wing of the YPG which Ankara regards as all terrorists to open offices near the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.
A Downer from Pepe "Empire of Chaos" Escobar:
What if the Neocons Seek to Delay YPG or Iraqi Advances vs. Daesh?
While it will be many weeks before Raqqa falls and it remains to be seen if Russia has ceded to the U.S. and Kurds the 'honor' of taking the Daesh capitol, or if Raqqa will fall before the November elections, one thing is clear: there are forces at work inside the Pentagon and in U.S.-Russia diplomacy that are counteracting the neocon lust for a Turkish and Saudi-dictated 'solution' to the Syrian Civil War. Call them 'the good guys', or simply call them U.S. military officers with the quaint idea that their job is to kill and defeat America's avowed enemy in Daesh not pussyfoot around pretending to fight him.
IF and it's a very debatable IF these men prevail in Pentagon bureaucratic infighting, possibly through leaks to the Trump campaign to put pressure on the Obama White House, then the supposedly 'super elite' terrorist army's 'Caliphate' is going down for the count by autumn. But arrayed against these, Pepe Escobar believes, are the L and K Street neocons and State Department neo-liberals of 'Exceptionalistan', who will do everything possible both within and outside the U.S. government to see that the YPG/SDF offensive against Daesh does not actually reach Raqqa:
The Last Option on the Table: Russia and Iran Go Hard with Thousands of Troops to Finish Off Daesh and Secure the Gas Fields of Eastern Syria
Meanwhile, the rest of the Syrian Civil War is likely to grind on for another year or three. But after weeks of after weeks of intense negotiations between the Russians and Americans, the defeat of Daesh and the severe bombing of Al-Qaeda in Syria are finally on the agenda, rather than Cold War 2 gamesmanship and avoidance of fighting as opposed to covertly aiding the terrorists. Ironically, the only hope the neocons now have may be is that Hillary Rodham Clinton their champion gets indicted by the Justice Department, and Vice President Joe Biden gets shooed into the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. But if the neocon portion of the U.S. Deep State prevails, we think Moscow is already putting together contingency plans for that eventuality. Plans like a sudden influx of highly competent Russian VDV paratroopers capable of getting to Raqqa first -- just like their grandfathers beat the Americans to Berlin in 1945.