International Military Review – Syria, June 23, 2016

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The ISIS terrorist group has regained control of the al-Zakia Junction and al-Zayn Hills in the southeastern part of Raqqa province after the Syrian Arab Army withdrew to Ithriyah. Pro-government sources argue that this was a tactical move and no heavy clashes have been observed, recently.

Ground sources provide different reasons of the recent setbacks, but the most important of them are:

  • surprise vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks;

  • a lack of the air support from the Russian air grouping located in Syria.

While the effectively of countering VBIED attacks lays in in the sphere of tactical measures implemented on the ground, the location of the Russian airbase in Latakia complicates significantly close air support because a big flying time to the target doesn’t allow to hit evading targets that move fast in the desert. Information of forward air controllers becomes outdated very fast. This is why the main striking force of the Russian military grouping in Syria – warplanes – is focused on stationary targets in different regions of Syria.

The SAA grouping at the border of Raqqa province is receiving reinforcements in order to counter-attack ISIS units in the area. Recently, a convoy of the Desert Hawks Brigade has arrived to the east Hama countryside in order to participate in the SAA’s advance on the Tabaqa military airport.

Meanwhile, Russian warplanes and helicopters raided the areas of T3-Airbase and Arak near Palmyra that had been seized by ISIS militants. Now, SAA units are deployed at the al-Talilah crossroad, east to the ancient city, preparing for fresh offensive operations.

Norway might deploy its troops and speical operation forces in Syria, the government said on June 22, following the authorization of the move by the country’s parliament. Norway is going to send some 60 troops to Jordan this summer. They will train and support “Syrian opposition “fighting the ISIS terrorist group. Most likely, this Syrian opposition is the so-called New Syrian Army.

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  • Gryphonne

    Withdrawing the Su-25s from Syria was a move as retarded as they come. The premier aircraft with decent loiter time to provide CAS for such a deep operation withdrawn as some bullshit token (no idea what Russian leadership was thinking here). No wonder it was a disaster. You can say all you want, but the US Army/AF understands the power of such endurance CAS far better with their Spectre/Spooky and A-10.

    Hopefully the Su-25 will return to Syria now as these are specifically designed to deal with “fast moving targets or whatever” on a nice open plain. Also, you could easily allow such an aircraft just engage targets of opportunity – especially when you know where the enemy is and they make nice dust clouds in the desert.

    • Robert Guttierez

      Agree, The Russian military still has allot to learn in terms of using their hardware and personnel more efficiently. I had such high hopes for them, but it’s becoming disappointing.

      • fairplay

        russia betrayed syria like Cuba 25 years ago

        • Gryphonne

          Personally, I think that statement is rather rash.

          • fairplay

            this is process. wait some months.

            and think over what happened in the last months…

            everyvwere occured siccess, was stopped the military initiation.
            daraa (nawa), north-east aleppo (al bab), north-west aleppo (this towns weare ready to fall: bayanoun, hayyan, haritan, anadan, kafr hamra, mansoura, ICARDA)

            if the sy army and ruaf would fullfill the strategy, the war were alredy won.

          • XSFRGR

            There is truth in what you say, but the war in Syria is far from over. I’ve been fighting or studying wars for over 40 years, and this is one of the most unusual that I’ve seen. Considering the terrain, and the situation I think the SAA, it’s allies, and Russia should have put an end to this by now. It seems to be permanently stuck in phase 4 (Allow the situation to develop) of the 6 phases of infantry combat. If the war doesn’t proceed through phases 5 (develop fire superiority), and 6 (close with, and destroy) soon it may well be lost.

            The above said, I do have faith in both Putin, and Assad to, in the end, emerge victorious. God bless the soldiers, and people of Syria.

          • I agree with you. I am however only assuming that Assad’s “trump” card is he can allow Iran to stream 4,000 Al Quads and IRGC troops anytime from their ally Iran.
            I believe for political and social reasons they are saving that as a last resort emergency card. So at the end of the day, Syrians can say Syrians did it with a little Russian air help. But nothing more. (This would gain them more credibility in the international community)
            However if worse comes to worse, I believe 5,000 Iranian volunteers would come to the rescue very quickly week.
            I strongly agree with you that it should have been wrapped up by now, and that they are taking to long. If I were Assad, I would have called for 1,500 elite Iranian guard’s to come in by now.
            Even though I know that a few hundred are already fighting.
            The longer they wait, the more time Israel can manipulate USA politics to bomb Assad or assassinate him in his sleep.

          • Gryphonne

            You talk like a 14 year old. Do yourself a favour and let the adults speak instead. All those “Wunderwaffen”, such as those mystical Quds, IRGC and unserviceable Tomcats, are not going to save Syria.

          • XSFRGR

            RARA made no mention of wonder weapons or un-serviceable F-14s . The Quds Force, and IRGC are long established, well equipped, and trained, and superbly led. I find his plan quite plausible. Of course, our opinions are our own.

          • Gryphonne

            I would politely point you to the top of the discussion :) Regardless, as good as they may be, they are not going to jump because Assad tells them to because he needs them at that instant. The Iranians will themselves decide what, where, how many – even if. Speculating that X number of elite troops are ready to do another nation’s leader bidding – in addition to arguing that that would be enough to achieve strategic goals XYZ, is stretching reality to the point of plastic deformation.

            In all fairness, I’m even surprised Russia and Iran haven’t lost their patience with Assad yet (maybe they have?). Because I get the impression he isn’t very reasonable about a number of things.

          • Jesus

            Russia can put an end to this anytime it wants to. They are trying to implement a political solution with the parties that agreed to the cease fire. Deploying a couple of armored brigades one heading towards Racca, and one towards Deir Ezzor along with the Syrian forces would check the NATO deployment in in East Syria and paralyze the ISIS communication and supply lines. Also developing another airbase east of Palmyra would be helpful. It means they are serious about the outcome of events in spite of Turkish and S. Arabian yapping along with NATO obfuscation.

          • XSFRGR

            Agreed, but Russia needs to put an end to this before the next US election is finalized. Right now the US is in turmoil, the politicians are distracted, and the chain of command is confused. I think that Russia is waiting for the ideal moment to decisively engage, and destroy. When (if) it happens is will be instantly lethal.

            With any luck a major Russian attack in Syria will draw in the US/NATO, and Obama will be forced to respond in theater without the use of nukes. If this happens the US will be defeated, and the world will be a much safer place.

          • Gryphonne

            I’m sorry, this is crazy talk. Wishing a confrontation between two super powers? You have any idea how easily that would spiral out of control? I’m not saying Russia is weak, on the contrary, but they would get wiped out in the middle east. This would naturally trigger Putin’s little protocol that attacking forces in Syria is like attacking the homeland, which, triggers WW3.

            Even if Russia would attack first, that would draw NATO into the fray, even worse. Suggesting any type of escalation between the two is dangerously outside any reality you’d ever want to be part of.

          • Jesus

            There is a confrontation between the two superpowers in the economic, financial and propaganda realm, an armed confrontation is not far fetched. Russians know that the present Obama position in Syria is unpopular at home and might sink a couple of carriers that are supporting and protecting terrorists.

          • Gryphonne

            This is yet another fruitcake reply. Why are you all so hungry for conflict? Between the US and Russia no less. Would you be cheering at the thousands if not millions of casualties of a direct confrontation on both sides? Or are you simply that dense that you think Russia would get out of it completely unscathed? Politicians have questionable motives and aren’t always bright; but thank goodness it isn’t people like you making policy.

          • Jesus

            You seem to think the sanctions and anti Russian propaganda does not constitute warfare ? US has no legal business of being in Syria supporting a wide array of terrorists ISIS included, if US wants to bully, Russia can counter punch effectively. Using conventional weapons and getting embarrassed by following antiquated naval doctrines, does not necessitate to nuclear escalation. If US was to loose a carrier, it would show the world their conventional forces are defeat-able, no sane person person would escalate to a nuclear treshhold. I see Russia slugging it out with US using conventional weapons, without nuclear escalation. Russia can call US’ bluff.

          • Gryphonne

            Last time I checked, the sanctions didn’t kill millions of Russians or Americans. Russia also has no legal business of being inside Crimea or the Ukraine, didn’t stop them. Maybe all you’re seeing in Syria are Western “volunteers”? But I’ve got no quarrel over Ukraine even though I think that was a big tactical mistake, which triggered this entire sanctions things in the first place. Or did you forget that too?

            I’ve no idea in what reality you live, but losing a carrier, an asset worth billions with thousands of sailors isn’t going to make NATO sit by idly. Even if Russia’s arsenal is larger (and it goes to show that in my opinion Obama was on the right track because nuclear weapons are too risky to keep in the hands of stupid human beings), it doesn’t take a modern nuclear weapon to destroy millions of innocent lives.

            All this capability boasting is fun and it might give you and your average couch potato a hard cock, but when push comes to shove you’ll be wishing you were dead. If you aren’t killed during the first strike or retaliatory strike. As such, any reply advocating “let’s murder some couple of thousand people, that will show them” is out of bounds and is the largest problem with this site to begin with. There’s hardly any intelligent discussion here.

          • Jesus

            Sanctions are intended to isolate and strangle its intended target. It is a means to carry on a different form of warfare without immediate bloodshed. Ukraine and Crimea were part of Russian sphere of influence and part of the Soviet Union, NATO going in and executing a coup to gain access to the Black Sea was their aggressive approach. When Russia interdicted their move and took control of Crimea NATO imposed their sanctions. I live in the reality of military capabilities, sinking a carrier is not going to trigger a nuclear exchange, otherwise US’ military is rather inept. Conventional weapons are built and deployed to deter and be employed against other conventional weapons. Do not mix the doctrine of conventional weapons use with nuclear weapons doctrine.

          • Gryphonne

            I’m going to stop arguing with you. You live in a krokodil induced fantasy and are wasting my precious time. Thank goodness you are just a couch potato and will never amount to anything putting you in a position where you create or steer military or foreign policy decisikn making.

          • Jesus

            You got no point of argument, I am teaching you a few realities you do not grasp…..which you consider a waste of time. It is you that lives in fantasy world. War is like chess, it follows logical rules of engagement, so what if I will not steer military or foreign policy?
            It is rather pathetic on your part that you cannot comprehend that sanctions along with oil price manipulation is a form of economic warfare. And it is pathetic on your part that you do not understand that NATO tried to take control of the Black Sea and deny Russia full access to the Black Sea. Russia was supposed to roll over and play dead…..right?

          • Gryphonne

            What’s even more pathetic is that you think economic sanctions are best resolved by obliterating thousands of lives. Yeah, war is like chess, but you would really blow as a chess player, cause you fail to even grasp the basic concept of consequences. I’m just glad you’re a couch potato, that’s all.

            More so, there’s nothing I can learn from you, ever.

          • Bill Rood

            No, war is not like chess. No human being dies in a chess game. Games like the old Avalon Hill board games that simulated historical battles were similar to chess. The original battles on which they were based are not. I believe Putin understands that fundamental difference, which is why he has displayed phenomenal restraint and a commitment to at least try to make diplomacy work. Fortunately, he is as different from you and western “diplomats” as war is from chess.

          • Jesus

            War develops on the basis of well established strategies dictated by the capabilities of weapons available. Yes, Putin has shown restraint, allowing for some possible peace solution in Syria. I am not advocating war, I am discussing various scenarios if war takes place.

          • Gryphonne

            The real scenario if war takes place – as a best-case – is that nobody will want to deal with several countries, prices will skyrocket, more people won’t be able to afford food, some/most people’s lives will be ruined as their savings evaporate. The world’s economy will be in tatters – again hitting the poorest among us and whole populations will live in fear. Again prohibiting the less well-endowed people to enjoy some basic education. Thus, the real outcome of those “various scenarios” is that the general innocent population (read: everyone) loses.

            No matter how hot, that Raptor/Abrams/Sarmat/Yars/Pick-your-poison, isn’t going to feed you at the end of the day. Thus, the only valid discussion right now is how to de-escalate the situation in a non-violent way. In the end, I hope people will retain their sanity, also when new leaders arise. Right now, we’d be far better off with countries putting their national shit pride aside and start working together – something that goes for ALL sides.

          • Jesus

            And BTW Russian nuclear forces are more capable and modern than US’. Once Sarmat missiles are introduced, Russia will theoretically have the first strike capability. US Has been neglecting its nuclear triad for decades. Obama wanted to eliminate all nuclear weapons………

          • Bill Rood

            There is no “first strike capability” considering particulate and radioactive pollution of the entire northern hemisphere, including both adversaries. The foolish notion that a thermonuclear war could be “won” is likely to destroy all higher order animal life on northern hemisphere land masses.

            The only thing that would tempt Russia to attack US/NATO forces outside Syria would be direct attacks on Russian forces and bases in Syria during imposition of a “no-fly” zone. Let us hope Hillary is not elected.

          • Gryphonne

            Finally, a clever guy. In addition, who the hell would ever want to deal with a country that sparks another world conflict just because they wanted to make a point? Russia would become the pariah of the world for all history. Putin is not this dumb. It’s a good thing most southfronters aren’t his personal advisers.

          • Jesus

            “””Finally, a clever guy. In addition, who the hell would ever want to deal with a country that sparks another world conflict just because they wanted to make a point”””

            LOL, who has been sparking conflicts during the last two- three decades? And who is conducting NATO military exercises at the border with Russia in the Baltic states?
            The art of making war is a science, you can speak strategy from a theoretical viewpoint regardless what politicians decide to do.

          • Gryphonne

            Stop replying, you’re making yourself look like a fool. I already told you that I did not condone NATOs position. Learn to read. What I support even less is war, and somewhere far below that, some random internet potato advocating it.

          • Jesus

            “””Stop replying, you’re making yourself look like a fool”””

            Really, take any point I made and prove it foolish by reality of events, not by some preconceived notion. I am not advocating war, I am discussing strategy and reality in Syria.

          • Jesus

            If terrorism is a scourge for mankind, US should fight and eradicate it…….not promote it.

          • Gryphonne

            Stop quoting me, I know full well what I’ve said. If you fail to recognise the above even after I’ve given you a second chance at trying to understand then you are beyond hope. What you’re discussing is some reality you’re creating for yourself. Or shall I quote each and every instance where talking about war gives you an erection? Fuck it, I give up on you. You are beyond any measure of help and just another shitty human being.

          • Jesus

            Whatever you said is posted for everyone to see. As far as reducing yourself to vulgarity instead of clarity…..it is your choice.

          • Gryphonne

            What they see is your stupidity and ignorance.

          • Jesus

            When mental faculties are challenged, vulgarity is a fig leaf of covering.

          • Gryphonne

            Congratulations, it took you all day to come up with that. Unfortunately, the only “mental faculty that is challenged” (you’re not making sense), is your own. If you wish to live in your grand delusion where anyone against Russia constitutes evil, and should be punished “by making an example of killing thousands of soldiers” (I can easily copy paste every single instance where you promote this, but you’re not worth the effort honestly), then by all means believe what you will. If you suddenly believe you’re some sort of an intellectual trying to teach me a lesson after all the junk you posted, this amuses me even more. In which case I will say, please keep entertaining me.

            Whatever the case, I will say no more :)

          • Jesus

            The mental challenge lies with the western media that distorts the truth, and those that follow such lies. Russia is a sovereign nation, if it’s interests are threatened, they have the right to respond accordingly. As I said, if the US navy supports terrorists who want to overthrow Assad and Russia, Russia has a right to destroy the terrorists and those military elements that support terrorism. They have the means to do it, and it will not lead to any nuclear escalation. Do you understand such simplicity?

          • Jesus

            You have proven you are a child in understanding, enjoy yourself with the kiddie lies and the house of cards built on lies. You claim you studied war and strategic concepts, your posts do not project such claims.

          • Jesus

            Yes, radioactive pollution is a byproduct of a nuclear exchange, first strike capability denotes the move where the attacker destroys a significant portion of the defendants nuclear triad. With advances in anti ballistic missile systems as well as Russia being a larger landmass than US, with population that is hardier and willing to endure difficulties…….the advantage weighs in Russia’s favor.

          • Bill Rood

            I am well aware of what a mythical “first strike capability” is. I don’t need to be educated by some fool who thinks it might be “acceptable” for a country to court the annihilation of even a few hundred thousand of its citizens as long as it can destroy a significant portion of its adversary’s nuclear capabilities with a “first strike.”

          • Jesus

            “””I don’t need to be educated by some fool who thinks it might be “acceptable” for a country to court the annihilation of even a few hundred thousand of its citizens as long as it can destroy a significant portion of its adversary’s nuclear capabilities with a “first strike.”””

            According to your line of logic Pentagon is a fool for deploying ABM Capabilities near the Russian borders and on its navy ships. Within a decade it is possible 80 ships will be deployed with this capability. Do you have any ideas how many ABM interceptors would be involved with such deployment? Are you some left winger without knowledge of human history for the last few thousand years? How many wars were fought on the whim of some stable and unstable individuals?

          • Bill Rood

            Yes, they are fools because it leads to the weakening of nuclear deterrence. MAD, as insane as it seemed to be, actually worked for 50 years in conjunction with defense doctrine of “no first use” by both USSR/Russia and the US. ABM defenses can be overwhelmed by a massive strike, but can be very effective in limiting the damage of a retaliatory strike by the remnants remaining after a first strike. They therefore lead to a “launch on warning” posture by a country potentially attacked in a “first strike.” They also give the military leaders deploying them false confidence that they can “survive” a weak retaliation if they can just manage to knock out most of the opposing missiles before launch.

            ABM defenses thereby make an accidental thermonuclear exchange resulting from a false alarm much more likely. There were many such false alarms during the 50 years of MAD. Combine that with US renunciation of its “no first use” doctrine, and you have a very dangerous situation that could lead to Armageddon in a crisis situation.

          • Jesus

            If the ABM defenses are deployed to the full extent contemplated by the US, approx 1500-2000 interceptors,( if cruisers, destroyers and some frigates carry 20 interceptors), you would have as many interceptors as available MIRVED warheads. The idea is to provoke a nuclear exchange, then use the ABM defenses to neutralize the ICBM and SLBM weapons, minimizing the damage to US, while retaining most of US ICBM and SLBM capability. The problem with the contemplated scenario is that Rusian ICBMs could use the hypersonic glide vehicles to deliver their nuclear payloads, rendering the ABM capability questionable.

          • Jesus

            Obama is a woos, US is not interested in getting involved in circumstances where they will suffer significant casualties, their carrier strike force in Meditaranean is a prime target if F18 annoyances continue to occur, and a possible air war ensues. US is not going to go nuclear if they loose 2 carriers protecting jihadis.

          • XSFRGR

            My point exactly. The US is only interested in being the bully as long as there is no significant threat to the US. If the US pushes it too far, and Russia responds by obliterating 2 or 3 carrier battle groups the only thing the US will do is bluster, threaten, and withdraw. After such a defeat the US will never threaten another country. It takes three things to stand up to a bully like the US: Blood, iron, and will. Russia has it the US doesn’t.

            Now that the EU is falling apart this may, hopefully, all be settled peacefully. However, it is the nature of a dying empire to strike out in it’s death throes so we aren’t out of danger yet.

          • Robert Guttierez

            They seemed to have started fine. They stopped the rebel advances and helped turn the tide, but things changed. They were routing the terrorists in Aleppo and all of the sudden stopped instead of push forward when the terrorists were in disarray.

            Now all I constantly read about is bombing residential areas and pictures of kids with 3rd degree burns. It’s getting harder to support a campaign that seems to be concentrating its efforts in residential areas and ignoring front lines.

            I feel bad for the people there. They get terrorized by the rebels, ISIS, the Americans and now the Russians. The one group I hoped would do things different, and show the rest of the world how it should be done.

          • Gryphonne

            Let’s hope they do, because this is a showcase to the world. And while I don’t like taking sides, NATO policy has irked me for the last decade. We made promises not to encroach upon Russia’s territory; lo and behold, we did. We promised not to station this and that near Russia – we did.

            Now I’m not saying Russia is saintly in all her dealings, but a little *healthy* counterweight to Western middle east policy would be a welcome thing. In the end however, we’re all stuck together on this ball of dirt. We’ll need to cooperate somehow to keep the innocent people safe. Right now, those innocent people are getting killed needlessly while everyone just plays a game of “mine’s bigger than yours”.

          • Judsonleet

            So Anglo-America would just lose all its resources, stop pumping in terrorists, stop destabilizing the country, and give up if “the strategy” were fulfilled?

          • fairplay

            the americans is one chapter.
            now we are talking about russia.

            look, how betrayed the syrians

            https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/746022102977904641

          • We appreciate all opinions, but the story above looks as a fairy tail. No proofs have been provided about the Russian request. P.S. Problems with planing and countering VBIEDs etc are widely known.

          • Gryphonne

            We appreciate all opinions (as long as it doesn’t make Russia look bad), but the story above looks as a fairy tail.
            No proofs have been provided about the Russian request. P.S. Problems
            with planing and countering VBIEDs etc are widely known.

            Fixed it for ya :)

          • 1) We implement a realistic approach: If there are porlems or limits, we provide info about this. The problem of “patriotic believes” (Russian or Syrian) is that they don’t allow to see the real background of the ongoing developments.
            2) To provide a screenshot of a screenshot of a story from an anonymous source as a proof is very questionable.
            3) If all is great in the SAA, why the Syrian government was almost defeated in 2015?
            4) Russians are pushing a kind of diplomatic solution over Syria because of own reasons. Somebody could like this, somebody no. But own preferences can not be an argument in factual discussions about the situation on the ground.

  • It is high time for Iranian aircraft to start playing their roll. They cannot sit by and just allow Russia to do all the heavy lifting.
    Iran has F-14 Tom Cats which have further range then any Russian or modern US Fighter/Interceptor/Light-Bomber has today.
    With a single fill up, the F-14’s can fly, bomb, and fly back with fuel to spare.

    • enemies R among us

      Very old planes from the Shah era , Iran doesn’t have spare parts, probably not even operational any more

  • John

    I think there is some sort of tango going on between the bigger parties to this. Something is just not adding up. I don´t think it is about weapon systems or the whatnot. Russia took out Nazi Germany at a time when they would have steamerolled the US and all our glory, if it been one on one. They know what to do.

    I am just waiting to see what pops out next. For now, it remains in the shadows. This is my sense of things. A good day to all.

  • Jack Oliver

    He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

    All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

    Sun Tzu

  • Alex M

    The Syrian government should coordinate more with the SDF & YPG. Pull out the NDF from Al-Hasakah and put them to use on other fronts (this doesn’t mean sacrificing it to the Islamists as the YPG can take over). Once the cantons of Afrin and Kobani are unified ISIS will have no supply lines left and the SDF can liberate Raqqa and end the siege on Dier ez-Zoir. Assad should focus on liberating Idlib, Aleppo and other western areas where the only non-Islamist force is the SAA/NDF. I’m not saying do anything stupid like pull out of Palmyra, but recognise the SDF/YPG is at least a tactical ally as Russia does.

  • Robert Guttierez

    I saw the explanation from the SAA as to why they were routed. All I can say is that Russia is looking worse and worse by the day. No air support and they were the first to retreat. I’m extremely disappointed with their tactics.

    • fairplay

      i wrote several times, the russian gave up. they do not want to fight. they will divide syria.

  • I think the only thing that will stop the US / NATO – Israeli agression in Syria AND around the World will be Russian Nuclear Warheads along the Borders in Syria……
    …..then they will stop their BS tactics when Israel is faced with becoming a burnt hole in the ground….

  • George Washington

    I wonder why South Front didn’t upload another military sitrep today…

    Perhaps because their editorial position on the events in Raqqa has been a joke.

    Time for the Lavrov fans to GTFO and let Shoigu’s people get the job done in Syria.

  • George Washington

    Bring back the SU-25’s and send the diplomats home! Russian credibility is fading FAST.