AuthorTopic: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball  (Read 14060 times)

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #210 on: June 27, 2017, 03:41:28 PM »
Photos #1, 3, 4, 5 all look like they have been "texturised" to make them seem more grainy.  The entire colour has been tinted from grey to blue. #3 has black figures added.  #4 was taken under ideal conditions so there is no reason for it other than to make the others seem more "real".

Yesterday's warning that another chemical attack is imminent, has been responded to ominously by Russia, so if Hersch's story is true, they will likely attack the Tomahawks with S-400, or maybe leak the recordings of the warnings given before - "Dmitri, I'm sorry that we are going to be attacking you, we KNOW you didn't really do it, but the President doesn't want to hear the evidence and wants to go the gorilla option. Just roll with the punch. Good luck. Out."

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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #211 on: June 28, 2017, 08:04:57 PM »
No surprises  in this, but well laid out for the record.
How America Armed Terrorists In Syria
Gareth Porter via
Jun 28, 2017

Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

That policy, ostensibly aimed at helping replace the Assad regime with a more democratic alternative, has actually helped build up al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise al Nusra Front into the dominant threat to Assad.

The supporters of this arms-supply policy believe it is necessary as pushback against Iranian influence in Syria. But that argument skirts the real issue raised by the policy’s history.  The Obama administration’s Syria policy effectively sold out the U.S. interest that was supposed to be the touchstone of the “Global War on Terrorism”—the eradication of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates. The United States has instead subordinated that U.S. interest in counter-terrorism to the interests of its Sunni allies. In doing so it has helped create a new terrorist threat in the heart of the Middle East. 

The policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in September 2011, when President Barack Obama was pressed by his Sunni allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—to supply heavy weapons to a military opposition to Assad they were determined to establish. Turkey and the Gulf regimes wanted the United States to provide anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, according to a former Obama Administration official involved in Middle East issues.

Obama refused to provide arms to the opposition, but he agreed to provide covert U.S. logistical help in carrying out a campaign of military assistance to arm opposition groups. CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms shipped the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former U.S. military personnel to manage the logistics, as investigative reporter Sy Hersh detailed in 2014. The funding for the program came mainly from the Saudis.

A declassified October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report revealed that the shipment in late August 2012 had included 500 sniper rifles, 100 RPG (rocket propelled grenade launchers) along with 300 RPG rounds and 400 howitzers. Each arms shipment encompassed as many as ten shipping containers, it reported, each of which held about 48,000 pounds of cargo. That suggests a total payload of up to 250 tons of weapons per shipment. Even if the CIA had organized only one shipment per month, the arms shipments would have totaled 2,750 tons of arms bound ultimately for Syria from October 2011 through August 2012. More likely it was a multiple of that figure. 

The CIA’s covert arms shipments from Libya came to an abrupt halt in September 2012 when Libyan militants attacked and burned the embassy annex in Benghazi that had been used to support the operation. By then, however, a much larger channel for arming anti-government forces was opening up. The CIA put the Saudis in touch with a senior Croatian official who had offered to sell large quantities of arms left over from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. And the CIA helped them shop for weapons from arms dealers and governments in several other former Soviet bloc countries.

Flush with weapons acquired from both the CIA Libya program and from the Croatians, the Saudis and Qataris dramatically increased the number of flights by military cargo planes to Turkey in December 2012 and continued that intensive pace for the next two and a half months. The New York Times reported a total 160 such flights through mid-March 2013. The most common cargo plane in use in the Gulf, the Ilyushin IL-76, can carry roughly 50 tons of cargo on a flight, which would indicate that as much as 8,000 tons of weapons poured across the Turkish border into Syria just in late 2012 and in 2013.

One U.S. official called the new level of arms deliveries to Syrian rebels a “cataract of weaponry.” And a year-long investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that the Saudis were intent on building up a powerful conventional army in Syria. The “end-use certificate” for weapons purchased from an arms company in Belgrade, Serbia, in May 2013 includes 500 Soviet-designed PG-7VR rocket launchers that can penetrate even heavily-armored tanks, along with two million rounds; 50 Konkurs anti-tank missile launchers and 500 missiles, 50 anti-aircraft guns mounted on armored vehicles, 10,000 fragmentation rounds for OG-7 rocket launchers capable of piercing heavy body armor; four truck-mounted BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launchers, each of which fires 40 rockets at a time with a range of 12 to 19 miles, along with 20,000 GRAD rockets.

The end user document for another Saudi order from the same Serbian company listed 300 tanks, 2,000 RPG launchers, and 16,500 other rocket launchers, one million rounds for ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, and 315 million cartridges for various other guns.

Those two purchases were only a fraction of the totality of the arms obtained by the Saudis over the next few years from eight Balkan nations. Investigators found that the Saudis made their biggest arms deals with former Soviet bloc states in 2015, and that the weapons included many that had just come off factory production lines. Nearly 40 percent of the arms the Saudis purchased from those countries, moreover, still had not been delivered by early 2017. So the Saudis had already contracted for enough weaponry to keep a large-scale conventional war in Syria going for several more years.

By far the most consequential single Saudi arms purchase was not from the Balkans, however, but from the United States. It was the December 2013 U.S. sale of 15,000 TOW anti-tank missiles to the Saudis at a cost of about $1 billion—the result of Obama’s decision earlier that year to reverse his ban on lethal assistance to anti-Assad armed groups. The Saudis had agreed, moreover, that those anti-tank missiles would be doled out to Syrian groups only at U.S. discretion. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the military balance.

This flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters into the country—primarily through Turkey—largely defined the nature of the conflict. These armaments helped make al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra Front (now renamed Tahrir al-Sham or Levant Liberation Organization) and its close allies by far the most powerful anti-Assad forces in Syria—and gave rise to the Islamic State.

By late 2012, it became clear to U.S. officials that the largest share of the arms that began flowing into Syria early in the year were going to the rapidly growing al Qaeda presence in the country. In October 2012, U.S. officials acknowledged off the record for the first time to the New York Times that  “most” of the arms that had been shipped to armed opposition groups in Syria with U.S. logistical assistance during the previous year had gone to “hardline Islamic jihadists”— obviously meaning al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra.

Al Nusra Front and its allies became the main recipients of the weapons because the Saudis, Turks, and Qataris wanted the arms to go to the military units that were most successful in attacking government targets. And by the summer of 2012, al Nusra Front, buttressed by the thousands of foreign jihadists pouring into the country across the Turkish border, was already taking the lead in attacks on the Syrian government in coordination with “Free Syrian Army” brigades.

In November and December 2012, al Nusra Front began establishing formal “joint operations rooms” with those calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” on several battlefronts, as Charles Lister chronicles in his book The Syrian Jihad. One such commander favored by Washington was Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, a former Syrian army officer who headed something called the Aleppo Revolutionary Military Council. Ambassador Robert Ford, who continued to hold that position even after he had been withdrawn from Syria, publicly visited Oqaidi in May 2013 to express U.S. support for him and the FSA. 

But Oqaidi and his troops were junior partners in a coalition in Aleppo in which al Nusra was by far the strongest element. That reality is clearly reflected in a video in which Oqaidi describes his good relations with officials of the “Islamic State” and is shown joining the main jihadist commander in the Aleppo region celebrating the capture of the Syrian government’s Menagh Air Base in September 2013.

By early 2013, in fact, the “Free Syrian Army,” which had never actually been a military organization with any troops, had ceased to have any real significance in the Syria conflict. New anti-Assad armed groups had stopped using the name even as a “brand” to identify themselves, as a leading specialist on the conflict observed.

So, when weapons from Turkey arrived at the various battlefronts, it was understood by all the non-jihadist groups that they would be shared with al Nusra Front and its close allies. A report by McClatchy in early 2013, on a town in north central Syria, showed how the military arrangements between al Nusra and those brigades calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” governed the distribution of weapons. One of those units, the Victory Brigade, had participated in a “joint operations room” with al Qaeda’s most important military ally, Ahrar al Sham, in a successful attack on a strategic town a few weeks earlier. A visiting reporter watched that brigade and Ahrar al Sham show off new sophisticated weapons that included Russian-made RPG27 shoulder-fired rocket-propelled anti-tank grenades and RG6 grenade launchers.

When asked if the Victory Brigade had shared its new weapons with Ahrar al Sham, the latter’s spokesman responded, “Of course they share their weapons with us. We fight together.” 

Turkey and Qatar consciously chose al Qaeda and its closest ally, Ahrar al Sham, as the recipients of weapons systems. In late 2013 and early 2014, several truckloads of arms bound for the province of Hatay, just south of the Turkish border, were intercepted by Turkish police. They had Turkish intelligence personnel on board, according to later Turkish police court testimony. The province was controlled by Ahrar al Sham. In fact Turkey soon began to treat Ahrar al Sham as its primary client in Syria, according to Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

A Qatari intelligence operative who had been involved in shipping arms to extremist groups in Libya was a key figure in directing the flow of arms from Turkey into Syria. An Arab intelligence source familiar with the discussions among the external suppliers near the Syrian border in Turkey during those years told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius that when one of the participants warned that the outside powers were building up the jihadists while the non-Islamist groups were withering away, the Qatari operative responded, “I will send weapons to al Qaeda if it will help.”

The Qataris did funnel arms to both al Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham, according to a Middle Eastern diplomatic source. The Obama administration’s National Security Council staff proposed in 2013 that the United States signal U.S. displeasure with Qatar over its arming of extremists in both Syria and Libya by withdrawing a squadron of fighter planes from the U.S. airbase at al-Udeid, Qatar. The Pentagon vetoed that mild form of pressure, however, to protect its access to its base in Qatar.

President Obama himself confronted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his government’s support for the jihadists at a private White House dinner in May 2013, as recounted by Hersh. “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria,” he quotes Obama as saying to Erdogan.

The administration addressed Turkey’s cooperation with the al Nusra publicly, however, only fleetingly in late 2014. Shortly after leaving Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2011 through mid-2014, told The Daily Telegraph  of London that Turkey had “worked with groups, frankly, for a period, including al Nusra.”

The closest Washington came to a public reprimand of its allies over the arming of terrorists in Syria was when Vice President Joe Biden criticized their role in October 2014. In impromptu remarks at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Biden complained that “our biggest problem is our allies.”  The forces they had supplied with arms, he said, were “al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” 

Biden quickly apologized for the remarks, explaining that he didn’t mean that U.S. allies had deliberately helped the jihadists. But Ambassador Ford confirmed his complaint, telling BBC, “What Biden said about the allies aggravating the problem of extremism is true.”

In June 2013 Obama approved the first direct U.S. lethal military aid to rebel brigades that had been vetted by the CIA. By spring 2014, the U.S.-made BGM-71E anti-tank missiles from the 15,000 transferred to the Saudis began to appear in the hands of selected anti-Assad groups. But the CIA imposed the condition that the group receiving them would not cooperate with the al Nusra Front or its allies.

That condition implied that Washington was supplying military groups that were strong enough to maintain their independence from al Nusra Front. But the groups on the CIA’s list of vetted “relatively moderate” armed groups were all highly vulnerable to takeover by the al Qaeda affiliate. In November 2014, al Nusra Front troops struck the two strongest CIA-supported armed groups, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front on successive days and seized their heavy weapons, including both TOW anti-tank missiles and GRAD rockets. 

In early March 2015, the Harakat Hazm Aleppo branch dissolved itself, and al Nusra Front promptly showed off photos of the TOW missiles and other equipment they had captured from it. And in March 2016, al Nusra Front troops attacked the headquarters of the 13th Division in northwestern Idlib province and seized all of its TOW missiles.  Later that month, al Nusra Front released a video of its troops using the TOW missiles it had captured.

But that wasn’t the only way for al Nusra Front to benefit from the CIA’s largesse. Along with its close ally Ahrar al Sham, the terrorist organization began planning for a campaign to take complete control of Idlib province in the winter of 2014-15. Abandoning any pretense of distance from al Qaeda, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar worked with al Nusra on the creation of a new military formation for Idlib called the “Army of Conquest,” consisting of the al Qaeda affiliate and its closest allies. Saudi Arabia and Qatar provided more weapons for the campaign, while Turkey facilitated their passage. On March 28, just four days after launching the campaign, the Army of Conquest successfully gained control of Idlib City.

The non-jihadist armed groups getting advanced weapons from the CIA assistance were not part of the initial assault on Idlib City. After the capture of Idlib the U.S.-led operations room for Syria in southern Turkey signaled to the CIA-supported groups in Idlib that they could now participate in the campaign to consolidate control over the rest of the province. According to Lister, the British researcher on jihadists in Syria who maintains contacts with both jihadist and other armed groups, recipients of CIA weapons, such as the Fursan al haq brigade and Division 13, did join the Idlib campaign alongside al Nusra Front without any move by the CIA to cut them off.

As the Idlib offensive began, the CIA-supported groups were getting TOW missiles in larger numbers, and they now used them with great effectiveness against the Syrian army tanks. That was the beginning of a new phase of the war, in which U.S. policy was to support an alliance between “relatively moderate” groups and the al Nusra Front.

The new alliance was carried over to Aleppo, where jihadist groups close to Nusra Front formed a new command called Fateh Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”) with nine armed groups in Aleppo province which were getting CIA assistance. The CIA-supported groups could claim that they weren’t cooperating with al Nusra Front because the al Qaeda franchise was not officially on the list of participants in the command. But as the report on the new command clearly implied, this was merely a way of allowing the CIA to continue providing weapons to its clients, despite their de facto alliance with al Qaeda.

The significance of all this is clear: by helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into al Nusra hands or strengthen their overall military position, U.S. policy has been largely responsible for having extended al Qaeda’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of America’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, U.S. policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by al Qaeda in Syria, even if the Islamic State is defeated there.
"The State is a body of armed men."

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #212 on: June 28, 2017, 10:15:06 PM »
Using plausible deniability against a systematically lying adversary
June 28, 2017

The Internet has been buzzing with reactions to the latest Stratfor report about how a military confrontation between Russia and the United States would play out. I did not find the full text, I suppose it is behind a Stratfor paywall or for subscribers only (and, frankly, I have better use for my time and money than to subscribe to that rubbish), but since the same excerpts are quoted everywhere, I might as well list them here and assume that they form the highlights of the article. Here we go (taken from the Business Insider quoting and paraphrasing the original article):

    While Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US (…) Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.” “Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers. If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back. Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft. Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

So is the author, Omar Lamrani, right in his assessment? Yes and no. Yes, that is exactly what would happen if the Russians decided to engage their small number of air superiority aircraft to try to prevail over the entire CENCOM and NATO air force for the control of the Syrian skies. And no, simply because the Russians would never do that.

The author of the article, a civilian with no military experience, makes a basic mistake, he assumes that the Russians will act like idiots and fight the kind of war the US would want to impose upon them. That is kind of assumptions most newbies make and which make for excellent propaganda articles. The problem is, of course, that there is absolutely no reason at all why the Russians should collaborate with such a ridiculous scenario. So, let’s get back to basics here.

Question 1: are the Russians in a position of weakness in Syria?

Yes, absolutely. And they know that too. First, the Russians are operating only 2 facilities (Tartus and Khmeimim), far away from home, and the size of their task force in Syria is tiny compared to the huge amount of firepower available to the AngloZionists and their allies. Second, the USA have poured billions of dollars into this region to make sure that the Soviet Union could never successfully invade Iran and not only do they have an immense numerical superiority over the Russians, they also have a world-class network of bases where even more forces can be brought in. Syria is squeezed between CENTCOM to the south and east and NATO to the north and west while the closets Russian forces are in Crimea. The truth is that not only could the US and NATO take control of the Syrian skies, even Israel alone could probably do it. So, assuming the Russians are not suicidal imbeciles, what do you think they should do? If you were Russian, how would you play your cards?

Question 2: do the Russians have advantages of their own?

Absolutely. In fact, they have many advantages over the Americans. Here they are in no particular order:

    All the boots on the ground that matter are either Russian allies or at least on good terms with Russia: the Syrians, the Iranians, Hezbollah and even Turkey are all much closer to Russia than to the AngloZionists. The only AngloZionist boots on the ground that matter are Daesh & Co.
    Internal public opinion: in Russia, the Russian military intervention is understood and backed by a overwhelming majority of Russians. In the USA the public is clueless and profoundly skeptical of this latest US war of choice. Not only that, but Putin personally has an immense credibility with the Russian people, while Trump is barely avoiding being impeached.
    External public opinion: while in the USA the Ziomedia is engaged in a truly heroic effort to avoid even mentioning the fact that even the US presence in, and nevermind the actual aggression against, Syria is completely illegal in terms of international law, most of the planet is quite aware of that. This only further erodes the US standing worldwide.
    The Russians have fewer lucrative targets to offer the AngloZionists than the Americans. Simply put, the Russians have Tartus and Khmeimim. The Americans have an long list of bases and facilities in the region which all could become potential targets.
    The willpower, courage and determination of the Russian solider is stronger than his US counterparts by many orders of magnitude. There are many reasons for this, historical as well as political, but I don’t think that anybody doubts the fact that while Americans love to kill for their country, they are much less enthusiastic about dying for it, especially when the “for it” part is extremely dubious and when the frontline solider feels that he is being used in some complex political game which he does not understand but where he is definitely used as cannon fodder.
    There is Russian personnel and military hardware interspersed within the Syrian forces. We know that Russian technical specialists, military advisors and special forces are operating on the ground in Syria. This means that the Russian can probably use a Syrian S-300 to shoot down a US aircraft without necessarily giving the US proof of their involvement. To use and old CIA term, the Russian can have “plausible deniability”.
    We know that Russia has a vastly superior intelligence capability in Syria as reflected in the kind of damage Russian air and missile strike inflict on their targets especially when compared to the painfully obvious lack of US understanding of what’s really going on on the ground.

So what does all this add up to?

1) Plausible deniability in the air

First, it is pretty darn clear that the Russians have no incentive to begin a large scale air battle in the skies of Syria with their US counterparts. However, the fact that such a battle would not be in their interest does not mean that they would necessarily avoid it either. For the time being, the Russians seem to have chose a strategy of deliberate uncertainty and harassment of the US aircraft, but they could decide to engage US aircraft using their ground based S-300/S-400 batteries. Here is how they could do it.

First, the Russians are the only ones in Syria with S-400s. So let’s set them aside for a minute and keep them for serious emergency purposes. Next, let’s look at the Syrian inventory of air defenses found on Wikipedia. Notice especially this one: the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22). According to Wikipedia, there are 50 SA-22 in Syria. Have you ever heard of the Panstsir-S1? Probably not.

Forget the S-300/S-400, think Pantsir

The Pantsir-S1 (aka “SA-22” in US/NATO classification) is an absolutely awe-inspiring air defense system, yet nobody in the general public or Ziomedia ever mentions it. Let’s take a look at it:

The Pantsir-S1 is mobile short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system which uses phased array radars for both target acquisition and tracking. Detection range: 32-45km (20-28mi). Tracking range: 24-28km (15-17mi). It can track up to 20 targets, engage up to 3 with 4 missiles at the same time. It has a secondary Autonomous Optoelectronic System with a 25km (15mi) engagement rage against a small F-16 size aircraft. The Pantsir’s missiles are solid-fuel rockets with a range of 20km (12mi), a ceiling of 15km (9mi) and a speed of Mach 2.3-2.8. The Pantsir also has two dual 30mm autocannons shooting up to 700 rounds of high explosive at a rate of 2’500 rounds per minute at a distance up to 4km (2.5mi). Now here is the really neat thing about it: both the Russian and the Syrian operate these mobile systems. In other words, not only might these Pantsirs be anywhere, but they might be operated by anybody. Heck, even the Iranians have them!

Though the Pantsirs look the part (they look like something out of a Terminator movie to me), they are even more dangerous than they appear because while they are capable of fully autonomous operations, they are also designed to be plugged-in into a global network via a digitally encrypted datalink which makes it possible for them to receive their engagement data from other land-based and airborne platforms. Finally, keep in mind that nobody really knows how many Pantsirs the Russians have brought with them to Syria, how many the Syrians currently operate, how many “Syrian” Pantsirs are operated by Russians and plugged in into the Russian digital air-defense network or, for that matter, how many Syrian and Iranian Pantsirs might be out there.

So what do we have? A system which is extremely mobile (being mounted on a heavy high mobility truck), easy to conceal (being small), which can engage any airborne target at altitudes ranging form 0m to 15’000m as far as 20’000m away. To do so, they can used their passive electronically scanned array (PESA), their Autonomous Optoelectronic System (AOS) or even data received from other radars including Russian S-300/S-400, Su-35 or AWACS.

Initially and officially, the Russian Pantsirs are solely tasked with defending the longer ranged S-300/S-400 systems and the Russian installations in Khmeimim and Tartus. But in reality they could be rapidly deployed anywhere and used to shoot down US aircraft with no evidence whatsoever that the Russians did it! Of course, the Russian would have to be very careful as to what source they would use to track the US aircraft and provide the Pantsir’s missile an engagement solution. As far as I know, the Pantsir’s missiles do not have an active or even semi-active radar system, but their AOS allows for completely silent/passive engagements. Depending on what intelligence assets the Americans do or do not have available at the time of attack, their might be no way of proving who shot down the US aircraft.

The bottom line is this: while the world is focused on the bigger S-300/S-400 capabilities, the Russians already have in place a far more flexible short-medium range air-defense system which would be impossible to destroy with Tomahawks (being mobile) and very hard to destroy with airstrikes. That system could be deployed anywhere in Syria and it could be used while providing the Russian with a plausible deniability. Of course, the US could try to fly outside the Pantsir’s flight envelope, but that would make use of any airpower very difficult. Another option for the Americans would be to rely solely on their low-RCS aircraft (B-1, B-2 for strikes, and F-22s to protect them), but that would dramatically decrease the overall capabilities of CENTOM/NATO over Syria.

I will conclude this section by reminding everybody that neither the US nor any other NATO country has ever had to operate in an environment as dangerous as the Syrian skies. The poor Serbs had only ancient air defenses and yet even against them NATO failed miserably. In Syria the Russian air defenses could give the Americans a run for their money without ever using any of their (admittedly few) air superiority aircraft.

2) Plausible deniability on the ground

Has anybody ever considered that the Russians might decide to attack US forces deployed on the ground in Syria (or Iraq for that matter?)? Apparently not, if only because most people would assume that the Russian force in Syria is tiny and therefore cannot attack a much larger and stronger US force. But, just as with the air warfare, this is a mistaken assumption based on the idea that the US would know who is attacking. In reality, the Russians could attack the US using their special forces (either those already deployed or specially brought in) to attack US targets and retain plausible deniability.


This is what we already know:

Russian operators are already deployed and active in Syria:

First the famous Spetsnaz ( Spetsnaz GRU Gsh). These are special units drawn either from the Southern Military District or, possibly, subordinated directly to the Military Intelligence (GRU) HQ in Moscow. Unlike the Spetsnaz GRU forces of the GRU brigades of the Military Districts, these small groups (8-12 men) are staffed by career officers only.

Next, the Russian Special Forces (SSO), a relatively new creation not to be confused with the Spetsnaz GRU even if they are similar in many ways, are also more or less officially in Syria (Russian TV channels have made reports and interviews with them). They are subordinated to General Staff of the Armed Forces. Here is a photo of them taken by a Russian journalist in Syria:

Finally, there аre reports of some unnamed but very secret Russian unit working in Syria (for example here) but neither Vympel nor Zaslon fit the bill (the former is now subordinated to the FSB, i.e. deal with internal security issues, while the latter is more of a protective service for officials, their residences and Russian civilians abroad). I have found no info on who they are, but my guess is that they are what Vympel used to be: special forces of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) working in close collaboration with the SVR agent networks in Syria.

Whatever may be the case, the Russians already have more then enough special forces in Syria to start attacking US targets in Syria or even elsewhere in the region. For example, during the battle for Aleppo there have been numerous reports of Russian snipers killing Daesh leader one after the other almost decapitating their entire leadership. That could happen to top US officers on the ground in Syria. Special forces could also arrange for “unexplicable” missile strikes hitting US forces. But the most important aspect here is that these forces could be used in complete secrecy with nothing identifying them as Russians. They would look like Arabs, speaks like Arabs and have Arabic IDs with them. The Soviets did use exactly this technique in Afghanistan to overthrow Afghan President Hafizullah Amin. Likewise, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has openly admitted that Chechen operators have been infiltrated into the Daesh command structure.. Finally, even if “Russians” are caught and somehow identified, there are about 5’000 Russian citizens of all sorts of ethnic groups (including Slavs) fighting in the ranks of Daesh and it will be impossible to prove that fighter X or fighter Z are agents of a Russian intelligence service.

Bottom line is this: Russia also has the option of ground attacks against US forces with plausible deniability.

So think of it – Russians SAMS shooting at US aircraft in the air, and Russian special forces killing US officers on the ground. And all this with complete plausible deniability.

Not convinced yet?

One the many uses of plausible deniability, especially against a systematically lying enemy

You might wonder how useful plausible deniability is against a country which makes up all sorts of ridiculous stories about Russian hackers stealing elections or invisible Russian armies in the eastern Ukraine. And I agree, a country which has 16 intelligence agencies and a long and shameful history of making up intelligence – yes, sure, they could say that “the Russkies did it” and have the Ziomedia repeat it all over and over again without any evidence.

But there is another side to this story: since the US propaganda machine has made up so many stories about genocidal Serbs, Viagra-enhanced raping Libyans, baby-tossing Iraqis, wannabe-nuclear Iranians, barrel-bombing Syrians and God knows who else – how credible will they be when they accuse the Russian of “this vicious and dastardly act” (whatever the act is, really)? Even as I write this, there are reports that the White House is already setting the stage for yet another false flag attack in Syria. Let’s be honest here and agree that Uncle Sam lies every time he moves his lips and while the brain-dead Ziomedia pretends to take each lie very seriously, the rest of the planet, including much of the American public, is under no illusions.

Now imagine a Russian operated Pantsir-S1 crew in Syria shooting down US aircraft or Russian operators blowing up a tent with the HQ of the US forces in Syria. Not only will there be no proof that the Russians did it, but even if there was, nobody would trust the Americans anyway. Furthermore, this also begs the following question: would it really be in the USA’s best interest to point the finger at the Russians? I would argue that it would not. It would make far more sense to blame the Syrians, then bomb some kind of Syrian government building (say the probably empty military intelligence building in downtown Damascus) and declare that “a message has been sent” then to take the military and political risk of attacking Russian forces in Syria.

Could the Americans retaliate in kind?

Probably not. Remember, they don’t have the boots on the ground, the intelligence capabilities or the political support (internal and external) to get away with that. Not only that, but US special forces have a long history of screwing up even relatively simple operations and I don’t see them trying to get away with a direct attack on Russian forces in Khmeimim or elsewhere. At most, they will do what they almost always do – subcontract the mission to some locals, which works great against defenseless civilians and ends up on disaster against a real “hard” target.

The many paradoxes of warfare

First, we should always keep in mind that any military action is just a means towards a political goal, the “continuation of politics by other means”. Because of that highly political nature, there are circumstances where being the weaker side can yield advantages. The key to the defensive strategy of the weaker side is not to let the stronger side impose the kind of warfare which maximizes the stronger side’s advantages. In the case of Syria, trying to defeat the entire air force of CENTCOM with just a few fighters would be plain stupid. And since the US does have an immense advantage in the number of cruise missiles it can launch – do what the Serbs did in Kosovo and Hezbollah did in 2006 against Israel: don’t give them a target. In the Syrian context this means: use only mobile air defense systems. Last but not least, hit the Americans were it hurts most – their morale. Remember how crazy they got when they could not find out who was attacking them in Vietnam?

An elephant in a porcelain store is a scary sight for sure. But once you get over your initial fear, you soon will realize that being a big bad elephant makes it very difficult to make a smart move. That is exactly the USA’s problem, especially the US armed forces: they are so big and confident that almost every move they make lacks to sophisticated caution imposed by life on a much weaker actor. This is why the almost always end up breaking the store and looking stupid. Add to this a quasi-total focus on the short-term quickfix, and you get a recipe for disaster.

The two options for a Russian counter-attack under the cover of plausible deniability are just the two that came to my mind. In reality there are many more, including many even much less “visible” than those I have suggested. My main goal was to illustrate that there is absolutely no reason for the Russians to behave like Omar Lamrani suggested in his frankly silly article. The truth is that I have absolutely no idea how the Russians might respond, and that is exactly how it should be. All I am sure of is that they won’t respond how Lamrani thinks they will, that’s all.

The wiser folks in the Pentagon and, apparently, on the ground are trying hard to avoid getting tangled up with the Russians not because they fear some specific Russian response, but because they are aware that they are dealing with an unpredictable and sophisticated actor. The good news is that the Russians are also trying hard to avoid getting tangled up with the Americans, especially so far away from home and smack in the middle of a thoroughly CENTCOM/NATO-controlled part of the world.

In conclusion, I want to mention just a small sampling of what I did not mention but which US commanders will have to consider before deciding on a direct attack on Russian forces: various naval scenarios, especially those involving diesel attack submarines, Russian options to deploy into Iran, Russian retaliatory options in other theaters such as Iraq, Pakistan and, especially, Afghanistan. Here is a good one: *real* Russian cracking (“hacking” is the wrong word) of crucial US computer networks, including the release of possibly very embarrassing information (think of it as “Wikileaks on steroids”). Finally, if cornered, one possibly option for Russia would be to draw US forces, resources and energy away from Syria to some other region truly critical to the USA. DPRK anybody?

The options are endless and the stakes very high. In the dreamworld of Mr Lamrani it’s all simple and easy. Which only goes to prove, yet again, that war is far to serious a matter to entrusted to civilians.
"The State is a body of armed men."

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #213 on: July 19, 2017, 07:59:53 PM »
This would be Syria's fate if Assad were to fall - one jihadist group fighting the others.
Bloodbath ensues as massive inter-jihadist violence sweeps Idlib, Hama
Andrew Illingworth

Full-scale war has broken out between a number of major Idlib-based militant factions. Opposition media is indicating that the forces involved are seizing entire townships from each other throughout Idlib and Hama, even going so far as to use heavy weapons (i.e. tanks) to do so.

According to preliminary reports, the main belligerents appear to be the Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist coalition and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The latter two groups have united against the former.

Earlier today, HTS attacked an Ahrar al-Sham base in the Armanaz area of northern Idlib with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). The blast from the car bomb is said to have resulted in the death of three Ahrar al-Sham fighters and two civilians; furthermore, another 15 people were injured of which at least five were Ahrar al-Sham militants.

Bomb attacks aside, the warring factions have also engaged in seizing towns and villages from one another.

Reports say that Ahrar al-Sham took over the town of Qalat al-Madiq in the al-Ghab Plain region after forcing all HTS fighters to withdraw or face certain death. Moreover, Ahrar al-Sham also kicked HTS out of several towns and villages in the Shahshabo Mountain area of northern Hama.

Ahrar Al-Sham is currently storming HTS bases at the town of Harem in northern Idlib. The two groups are also exchanging fire in the town of Salqin where both have bases. The engagement has thus far left 16 people dead, most of which are Ahrar al-Sham fighters.

HTS has for its part also delivered some heavy blows to Ahrar al-Sham.

So far today, the jihadist group has killed the security chief of the Al-Abbas Brigade (part of Ahrar al-Sham) along with 3 other troops in the town of Al-Magharan.

Opposition media is now reporting that Ahrar al-Sham will allow Turkey-led Euphrates Shield forces to enter Idlib from the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing to aid them in fighting HTS although this also comes amid seemingly contradictory reports that, in response to all this violence, Turkey has sealed off its borders with Idlib.

Updates to follow.
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #214 on: July 21, 2017, 09:55:32 PM »
Turkey Poised To Invade Syria's Idlib Province As Inter-Jihadist Violence Rages
Tyler Durden
Jul 21, 2017

Two Salafi-jihadi factions in Syria's Idlib province have been engaged in a brutal inter-"rebel" (or rather inter-jihadist) war this week, prompting Turkey to prepare a potential invasion to protect its favored factions on the ground. On Thursday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS/Al-Qaeda) continued to capture towns in Idlib's countryside from rival Ahrar al-Sham and Turkish backed FSA groups after an uneasy truce between the rebel factions quickly collapsed days prior, causing the weaker Ahrar al-Sham to call in Turkish support.

Multiple reports coming out of the region indicate that Turkey has been transferring hundreds of jihadists from its former Euphrates Shield forces in northern Aleppo province (the Turkish occupied "Jarabulus pocket") to Turkey's Hatay border region, where they began entering Idlib through the Ahrar controlled Bab al-Hawa crossing. However, in the early morning hours of Friday HTS reportedly captured part of the Bab al-Hawa crossing in a significant blow that could trigger a bigger Turkish response. A larger force may be awaiting word from Ankara for a full scale invasion involving Turkish Army troops which might come at any moment.

What is certain is that things are about to get even bloodier, and either Turkey will occupy yet more Syrian land, or the Syrian Army will eventually move in to mop up Idlib once the warring groups have depleted and utterly exhausted each other. The latter scenario is a likely possibility given increased Russian leverage over Turkish actions: Turkey would have to seek a nod from Moscow before occupying Idlib overtly. So far, Turkey's proxy forces are being swallowed up by the more formidable HTS.

Dozens of militants from both factions have been killed across the rebel controlled Idlib province in a week that's seen dramatic shifts in the geopolitical landscape over Syria, including sudden news of the White House's ending the CIA weapons program, as well as Turkey's leaking of US forward operating base locations in northern Syria through its state-run news channel, further escalating tensions between Turkey and the US.

On Wednesday Al-Masdar News reported the extent of initial fighting, which even involved tanks and other major weapons systems:

Full-scale war has broken out between a number of major Idlib-based militant factions. Opposition media is indicating that the forces involved are seizing entire townships from each other throughout Idlib and Hama, even going so far as to use heavy weapons (i.e. tanks) to do so.

 ...Ahrar Al-Sham is currently storming HTS bases at the town of Harem in northern Idlib. The two groups are also exchanging fire in the town of Salqin where both have bases. The engagement has thus far left 16 people dead, most of which are Ahrar al-Sham fighters.

Idlib's in-fighting can be seen as a mini civil war for leadership and land among terrorist factions. Some reports link the cause of this week's major escalation to a dispute over the presence of FSA and more "nationalist" flags being flown by Ahrar-aligned groups. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which opposes FSA leaning groups, is essentially the current iteration of al-Nusra Front (now calling itself Fateh Al Sham), which is a coalition led by al-Qaeda's main off-shoot in Syria. While ISIS has been the focus of international headlines over the past years, Nusra has been no less barbaric in unleashing terrorism on civilians, and like ISIS it seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Nusra's ideology is indistinguishable from that of ISIS, and the two were the same organization as they fought as one in Northern and Eastern Syria throughout much of 2013. More recently Nusra has made multiple attempts to rebrand itself in the hopes of attracting more external support. But rival Ahrar al-Sham has had more success in this area as it's been a favored so-called "moderate" opposition group of choice among prominent think tanks such as The Brookings Institution (which has a location in Qatar) - this in spite of being more accurately called the "Syrian Taliban" by some prominent experts for its brutal sharia style rule.

Shockingly, the group landed an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2015, and made a direct appeal to the American public, defending itself as "moderate" and not "extremist". Even now, Syrian opposition media and friendly political and media allies in the West are championing the cause of Ahrar al-Sham, continuing to claim it represents the true spirit of the "revolution".

Map source: Andrew Illingworth, Oz Analysis

But Ahrar al-Sham also has organizational roots in al-Qaeda, though external patrons - especially Qatar and Turkey - have long seen the group as a viable partner on the ground. Even the US has at times entered into a de facto relationship with both groups now vying for control of Idlib: in 2015 both Nusra and Ahrar were key leading factions of the umbrella organization "Army of Conquest" which captured Idlib City from the Syrian government in March 2015. As was widely reported at the time, US intelligence officers assisted the al-Qaeda stacked Army of Conquest from a US-Turkish led "operations room" in southern Turkey.

This week it was revealed that Trump made the decision earlier this month to shut down the years-long CIA covert program to aid rebel groups in Syria, while the Pentagon continues to support the Kurdish-led SDF as it fights in Raqqa and elsewhere. Various media pundits have immediately begun blaming the renewed Idlib chaos on Trump's closure of the CIA program. The Daily Beast's Roy Gutman (who actually believes Assad created ISIS) laments:

    As moderate rebel groups in Syria tried to digest the news that the U.S. will soon cease all covert support for them—a sudden revelation they learned from press reports—northern Syria descended into further chaos.


    ...Now the very existence of moderate local forces backed by the U.S. hangs in the balance.

And more absurdly the usual neocons are using this as an opportunity to call for revived CIA intervention a mere two days after the covert program's termination was announced: David Ignatius, quickly out with a teary-eyed post mortem on the CIA's Syria campaign (which he gleefully boasts in its heyday "may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies"), writes:

    Contrast the sad demise of the CIA’s anti-Assad program in western Syria with the rampaging campaign against the Islamic State in the east. What’s the difference? In the east, motivated, well-organized Syrian fighters are backed by U.S. warriors on the ground and planes in the sky. In this game, halfway is not the place to be.

Take your pick: Syrian al-Qaeda (HTS) or Syrian Taliban (Ahrar al-Sham)? As the jihadists of Idlib continue kill each other off the weeping and gnashing of teeth in Washington is sure to intensify.
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #215 on: July 23, 2017, 10:01:20 PM »
Shot down for bombing US allies the SDF.
US-led coalition downs Syrian army plane in southern Raqqa
18 Jun, 2017

The US-led coalition has downed a government warplane in southern Syria, the Syrian army and coalition have announced in separate statements. The Syrian military added that the plane’s pilot is now missing.

According to the Syrian statement, the plane was carrying out operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the countryside around Raqqa when it was targeted, leading to a crash and the loss of the pilot, who is currently missing.

“This attack comes at a time when the Syrian Arab army and its allies are advancing in the fight against ISIS terrorists who are being defeated in the Syrian desert in more ways than one,” the statement read.

The statement added that although such attacks seek to undermine the Syrian armed forces’ struggle against terrorism, they will not be deterred in fighting for stability and security in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The downing of the Syrian warplane, an Su-22, was confirmed by an official press statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led international task force against IS, which accused the Syrian government of targeting fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia.

“At 6:43pm, a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” the statement read.

The statement added that its mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria and that the Coalition does not seek to “fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

This is not the first time that the US-led intervention in Syria has led to standoffs and violence against pro-government forces. In September 2016, a coalition airstrike on Deir ez-Zor killed over 60 Syrian soldiers while in April 2017, US President Donald Trump ordered a Tomahawk missile strike on the Shayrat airbase, ostensibly in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the Syria government, though no concrete evidence of this has emerged.

Earlier in June, the US deployed several High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) in southern Syria, close to the border with Jordan. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the presence of the rocket launchers cannot be justified by a need to fight Islamic State terrorists, as IS forces are not active in the area. Instead, their presence threatens the cooperation between the Syrian government and their partners in Iraq.
‘US trying to draw red lines for Syria’

Syria-based journalist Alaa Ebrahim told RT he believes that, by downing the Syrian jet, Washington is aiming to redraw “red lines” in the Syrian conflict and show that it won’t tolerate the involvement of the Syrian government’s armed forces in the liberation of Raqqa.

“The Americans don’t want the Syrian army to advance towards Deir ez-Zor, they don’t want the Syrian army to actually be present as part of the operation to retake Raqqa or to take any part of the Raqqa province,” Ebrahim said.

“The US is trying to draw boundaries in the Syrian conflict and red lines for the Syrian army not to cross them,” he added.

The journalist believes that the Syrian Army might go to great lengths to challenge the US strategy in Raqqa, as there are considerable concerns as to the outcome of the battle should the city eventually fall into the hands of the US-backed Kurdish-led SDF forces.

Ebrahim speculated that when IS is pushed out of Raqqa, the terrorists will be allowed “a safe way out and those fighters will have only one choice, to go to Deir ez-Zor and to try to take the city from the hands [of the Syrian Army].”

Such a relocation would put an additional strain on the Syrian armed forces trying to break the siege of the city that has been ongoing for over two years, he said, adding that Sunday’s downing of the plane is “part of the ongoing escalation” that has been on the rise in Syria for the past several months “since the US carried its first airstrike against pro-government forces.”
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