Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Today's Links

If this analysis is valid then I expect that we will see the direct intervention of Russian ground forces in the next months.  the instances of gains by the rebels that are cited were all passing events that were quickly reversed.  Russia continues to focused on achieving a negotiating position that excludes all jihadi groups from the talks.  I continue to think that in the near future we will see a sudden collapse of rebel activity in NW Syria.  pl 
Colonel W. Patrick Lang is a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets). He served in the Department of Defense both as a serving officer and then as a member of the Defense Senior Executive Service for many years. He is a highly decorated veteran of several of America’s overseas conflicts including the war in Vietnam. He was trained and educated as a specialist in the Middle East by the U.S. Army and served in that region for many years. He was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) he was the “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism,” and later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service.” For his service in DIA, he was awarded the “Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive.” This is the equivalent of a British knighthood. He is an analyst consultant for many television and radio broadcasts.

1---"With the consent of Erdogan, Turkish intelligence experts have been training Islamists at secret bases in the Konya Province inside the Turkish border," Berger continues.

2---Déjà vu? Four NATO Countries 'Plan Another Invasion in Libya'
3--Lost thread? If O spent as much time trying to beat ISIS as he does trying to shape public opinion, he might have something to show for it

Operation Inherent Resolve  "our goal here is to make that people are informed about all the actions that we’re taking.”: Obama

The “narrative working group” was created several weeks ago as part of the military’s strategy during a rapidly changing war, according to a report by The Hill.

Robert Malley, who held a Twitter chat with the general public and journalists. He also emails journalists daily summaries of “key developments…in our unyielding campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL.” Separately, there was a briefing on IS finances and efforts to target the group’s oil assets, reported the Hill
What has been consistent about the military’s strategy has been the president’s insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” before the real fighting against IS can begin, and of his “no boots on the ground” pledge, a phrase repeated by officials, although President Obama said recently that this simply meant no battalion-level deployments

According to a mid-November poll by CBS News, two-thirds of Americans don’t believe that Obama has a coherent strategy for combating IS, with about half of respondents approving of sending ground troops to fight the terrorist group, and 63 percent saying that such a deployment was inevitable. Only 20 percent believe airstrikes, the US’ current favorite tactic, will be successful.
In December, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill approving $573 billion for the Pentagon’s defense operations, with a $58.7 billion budget line for the military campaign against IS

4--Fighting Isis or shaping public perceptions?

The U.S. military is seeking to craft a “new narrative” for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in part to push back on the growing perception that President Obama does not have a strategy.
Military officials on the Operation Inherent Resolve task force have recently formed a working group to formulate the narrative, defense officials told The Hill. Separately, the Joint Staff has drafted its own messaging document.

The steps are preliminary and are part of a larger effort to better communicate the United States's military strategy amid heavy criticism from Republican presidential candidates who say Obama is losing the battle against the terrorist group.
"To say there's no strategy is just flat out wrong," said Army Col. Christopher Garver, public affairs officer for the Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve

5---U.S. sees bearable costs, key goals met for Russia in Syria so far

No quagmire after all

Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.
That assessment comes despite public assertions by President Barack Obama and top aides that Putin has embarked on an ill-conceived mission in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it will struggle to afford and that will likely fail.
"I think it's indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was," said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity. Five other U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters concurred with the view that the Russian mission has been mostly successful so far and is facing relatively low costs.

6---Putin has concentrated on oil smuggling recently.
"You know, I am looking and analyzing everything that was happening there and what is happening there now. I think ISIL [Islamic State or Daesh, outlawed in Russia] is a secondary thing now," Putin said at his annual press conference. The Russian leader reminded of the vacuum that was created after the war in Iraq.
"Then elements emerged related to the oil trade. And this situation has been unfolding for years. A business was established there, smuggling on huge, industrial scale. Then in order to protect this smuggling and illegal export, military force is needed. It is very easy to use the Islamic factor, attract ..

"Then elements emerged related to the oil trade. And this situation has been unfolding for years. A business was established there, smuggling on huge, industrial scale. Then in order to protect this smuggling and illegal export, military force is needed. It is very easy to use the Islamic factor, attract cannon fodder there under Islamic slogans, who are only playing a role linked to economic interests," Putin explained...

He stressed that Daesh could be used as a pretext to military involvement to protect oil smuggling and illegal crude export.

Saudi Arabia announced this week it was building an Islamic coalition, allegedly to fight "terrorists" across the Middle East and Asia.
"It is very easy to use the Islamic factor, attract cannon fodder there under Islamic slogans, who are only playing a role linked to economic interests," Putin said

7---Russian diplomacy achieved a trio of Security Council Resolutions over the last month which give Russia a decisive advantage

8--Leader: Enemies after Muslim civil war
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the enemies are trying to trigger infighting among Muslims as they are destroying Islamic countries. 
“The aim of the enemies today is to set off a civil war among Muslims which they have unfortunately succeeded to some extent,” the Leader said Tuesday on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the Prophet of Islam.
“They are destroying countries one after another. They are destroying Syria, Yemen and Libya. They have Muslims in Bahrain under pressure,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

9--Recapturing Ramadi fits with US partition plan

Reports indicate that the Sunni tribal force will be handed control of Ramadi once it is fully cleared of ISIS fighters and that the Iraqi Army will withdraw. Such a policy dovetails with the widespread discussion in US and European military and strategic circles that the only way to maintain control over the oil-rich Middle East—after more than a decade of military setbacks and debacles for US policy—is the partition of Iraq and Syria into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish mini-states.
US-Israeli strategist Barak Mendelsohn bluntly headlined a comment in the November edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, “Divide and Conquer in Syria and Iraq: Why the West Should Plan for a Partition.” Mendelsohn declared that the US and the European powers should carve out an “independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border,” while leaving the Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad in control of a small Shiite and Christian enclave centred on Damascus.....

The city itself is in ruin. Even the sanitised media footage shows utter devastation to blocks of residential housing. A spokesman for the government-endorsed Anbar provincial council, Eid al-Karboly, told the Washington Post: “All the infrastructure of the city has been destroyed. It will take years to return life to the city.” Karboly estimated that 80 percent of all homes are damaged to some degree....

The growth of support for ISIS in western Iraq stemmed in large part from the decision by the Baghdad government, which is dominated by religious-based Shiite parties, to systematically reduce support for the predominantly Sunni militias in Anbar after the US withdrawal at the end of 2011. Sunni-based political parties and Anbar tribal leaders were subsequently persecuted.

Amid hostility toward the sectarian policies of the Shiite government, areas of Fallujah and Ramadi were taken over by fighters declaring allegiance to ISIS in early 2014. At the time, the actions of the extremist Sunni movement against the Baghdad regime enjoyed the tacit sympathy, if not overt support, of many of the tribal leaderships that had enlisted into the US “Awakening.” Former US-funded tribal fighters provided much of the manpower and military expertise that ISIS employed to capture most of Anbar and the key northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2014, where they routed tens of thousands of poorly-motivated, US-trained government troops.
The last sectors of Ramadi came under complete ISIS control in May 2015. As in Mosul, government forces retreated in disarray, provoking US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to publicly denounce the Iraqi Army for “a lack of will to fight.”...

The recapture of the city appears linked to a new set of deals and pay-offs that US officials have struck with the Anbar tribal leaderships, who either have been alienated by ISIS or have concluded it is a lost cause. Daniel Byman, an American analyst of Islamic extremist movements, told the New York Times yesterday that the Anbar tribes “want a high degree of independence, but they also want to be on the side of the winners.”

10---2016 prediction: US global war to intensify significantly

The record of the US special units, which have emerged as the spearhead of the so-called “war on terror” since 2001, makes clear the murderous nature of the escalating commando war. US Special Forces have been granted a general license to carry out violence and mayhem in every part of the world with total disregard for international law. Thousands of US commandos are already operating in between 85 and 130 countries worldwide, according to varying estimates by US media sources....

The divisions that exist within the US ruling elite and the state over foreign and military policy concern the focus and methods of US efforts to dominate the territory and resources of the world, with the Obama White House arguing for a concentration on the struggle against China and his opponents demanding a larger commitment of troops and weapons to turn the Middle East into a de facto US colony. But there is no “peace faction” within the corporate and political establishment, or either of the two big-business parties.


"At least 130, mostly wounded, rebel fighters left the town of Zabadani for the nearby Lebanese border at the same time as 350 fighters and civilians from pro-government besieged Shi'ite towns in northwestern Syria headed for the Turkish border.
Under the deal, the fighters from the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham group and other local Syrian rebel factions holed up in Zabadani for months have been promised safe passage to Beirut airport and then on to Turkey.....

Zabadani was truly the last bastion of the rebels/jihadis in the Anti-Lebanon.  You can be sure that the Lebanese will make sure these people are all flown to Turkey where their friend Sultan Tayyip will feed them back into the coming meat grinder in Idlib Province. 

12---Turkey continues massive trade in IS oil

13---During his pre-Hawaii presser Obama said something about wanting "more ceasefires" in Syria as part of his master plan.  To say that he and Assad share the same goal in this would be an understatement.  Of course this cease-fire and removal of the rebels (in this case IS rebels) will leave the government in charge of yet another piece of ground.
There are other rebel held pockets in the Damascus environs, pockets that are held by non-IS jihadi rebels.   IMO these will be under even greater pressure with the removal of the people in this IS held pocket.  Look to see more ceasefires with concomitant government recovery of territory and population.  IMO this is yet another example of developing

14---Russian troops to go to Syria??

ISW year's end analysis of operations in Syria.

"The direct intervention of Russia into the Syrian Civil War has shifted battlefield momentum in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since ISW published its last Control of Terrain in Syria Map in mid-September. Russia began its air campaign in Syria on September 30, enabling the regime to mount renewed offensives against opposition-held terrain throughout Western Syria. In Aleppo Province, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and associated proxy forces launched a multipronged offensive on October 15 that has seized large swaths of rebel-held terrain in the southern countryside of Aleppo City, threatening to sever the strategic M5 Highway. Meanwhile, pro-regime forces relieved the besieged Kuweires Airbase in Eastern Aleppo Province on November 10 in a key symbolic victory that positioned the regime to exploit future U.S.-led coalition operations against ISIS along the Syrian-Turkish border. The regime also achieved tactical gains against the opposition in Northeastern Latakia Province and parts of Northern Hama Province as well as the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.
The regime nonetheless suffers from chronic shortages of manpower that render it unable to fully capitalize upon the expanded support provided by Russia and Iran. Rebel factions seized the town of Morek in Northern Hama Province on November 5, securing a strategic position directly north of Hama City. Regime forces have also struggled to repel repeated incursions by ISIS into Central Syria despite the presence of Russian airpower. ISIS temporarily severed the vulnerable regime ground line of communication to Aleppo City in October, disrupting ongoing operations in Southern Aleppo Province. ISIS also engaged in back-and-forth battles over the town of Mahin in the Eastern Qalamoun Mountains over the past two months, threatening to disrupt the M5 Highway between Damascus and Homs City. ISIS currently retains its position in Mahin despite the deployment of Russian helicopter gunships to the region."  ISW..

This will not be greeted as a Christmas card by the Obama administration.  The only worrisome thing in this analysis from the POV of the previous opinion of the course of the war here at SST is the business of the supposed "chronic shortage of manpower."  If this analysis is valid then I expect that we will see the direct intervention of Russian ground forces in the next months.  the instances of gains by the rebels that are cited were all passing events that were quickly reversed.  Russia continues to focused on achieving a negotiating position that excludes all jihadi groups from the talks.  I continue to think that in the near future we will see a sudden collapse of rebel activity in NW Syria.  pl 


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