ISIS Regaines al-Zakia Junction & al-Zayn Hills in Southeastern Raqqa amid Lack of Russian Air Support

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ISIS Regaines al-Zakia Junction & al-Zayn Hills in Southeastern Raqqa amid Lack of Russian Air Support

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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:

  • high effectivity of surprise vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks:
  • a lack of the air support from the Russian air grouping located in Syria.

SouthFront can hardly explain the problems with countering VBIED strategy of the SAA grouping in Raqqa province, especially amid reports about a high number of Russian military advisers there. It’s needed to get more info to make a conclusion.

On the other hand, a lack of the air support from the Russian Aerospace Forces is easily explained:

The Russian airbase in Latakia is located far away from the areas in Raqqa. This 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 Information of forward air controllers become outdated very fast.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.

Syrian Army prepares for counter-attack

Some pro-government forces distribute reports that the SAA grouping at the broder of Raqqa province is receiving reinforcements in order to counter-attack ISIS units in the area.

For example, AlMasdarNews released a video of a convoy of the Desert Hawks Brigade, alledgedly arrived to the east Hama countryside in order to participate in the SAA’s advance on the Tabaqa military airport.

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  • Daniel Martin

    I don’t know if the Russian partial withdrawal of their air group recently from Syria was a tactical move by Putin to give the peace negotiations a chance and show the Syrian opposition a good will and give them a chance to change teams or lay down their arms? But what i do know is that Americans have taken that opportunity to rearm and regroup their terrorists proxies on the ground,witch results we can witness on the ground right now. I hope that the Russians have learned their lesson now, that the Americans can never be trusted when it comes to any agreements.

    • Pampalon

      Syria is a diversion from Ukraine. It worked. Unfortunately Syria is only secondary.
      Putin has no choice, he is surrounded by enemies and the survival of the Russian nation
      (having been dealt a heavy blow by losing the Cold War) is at stake.

      • John Whitehot

        only yankees talk about winning or losing the cold war. And Putin is not surrounded by enemies, it’s clear by now that China is a strategic partner and her nukes would fly alongside the russian ones towards the US, if shit hits the fan.

        • fairplay

          china is no partnet. never was, never will be.

        • Njordheim

          You cannot really trust Chine, unfortunately.

    • fairplay

      obama told: it can be much worse in syria. putin got frightebed and removed the army. russia is weak and has no money for war. syria is lost.

      • Daniel Martin

        I hope truly that it doesn’t come to a war and I know that Russia will do everything to avoid one. But if it comes to war they will completely slaughter the U.S and their NATO vassals, that i can guarantee you that.

        • fairplay

          russia will not begin war. the americans also not. they push out russia slowly from caucasus, syria. kazachstan.

          they will wait until putin dies. or loose power. there is no alternative in russia.

          look, until the rulers of russia are oligarchs and so big curruption is present, russia has no chance on long distance run. peter I. began with reforms, but never were fullfilled. until today is a hemifeudalistic sytem in russia. the initiatives are suppressed, too strong boss-system is present. such unflexible sytems loose always. thsi is only the question of time. i know, you hacve quite good weapons, but this is far not enough. until the main export commodities are oil, gas, aliminium, russia is weak player. wizh no economical potential. that is the reason of problems in syria, russia has no money to continue in fighting. already has lost the war in syria.

          • Daniel Martin

            Your comment is really like listening to a Washington state-department spokesman like the unintelligent Jen Psaki, ( I refrain from using stronger words) and is totally detached from reality and the truth, and it really doesn’t deserve going in any deeper discussions with you on this subject.

          • fairplay

            no, my boy, i am not against russia. but already peter I., stalin knew, the base is a strongd, dynamic economy. i know, you are good in military industry. but you need western technology for oil-mining. you do not have good cars. you do not have good electronic products, like tv-s, phones, pc. you are not able produce hygh uality processors. you do not have original medicaments. few export goods and too much import goods. that is tje reasen, you can produce only limited number of military equipment. you must change yourself. also less drink, stay in russia, use your money in russia and not in western banks. lern from germens, norway, sweden. you have not good mentality. made Buran. the best space shuttle. where is it? you let it rust. so, until you will not respect your pearls, the world will do not this. and you will not progress.

            i tell you this friendly and not as enemy. i like a multipolar world.

          • John Whitehot

            “strong, dynamic economies” are drowning their citizens in national debt, because they actually spend much more than they have in maintaining ridiculously avid military industrial complexes. When those strong dynamic economy countries will be blackmailed by bankers, and will be forced to follow the policies they’ll dictate to them, we’ll see how well their people will cope, if they’ll ever wake up from the brainwashing they’ve been subjected. When a country has trillions dollars of debt, really is not entitled to talk abt corruption elsewhere, since it’s basically selling itself and its people like whores.

          • fairplay

            and? changed something on fact, that the russian economy is not eble to priduce enogh products?

          • chris chuba

            The Russians produce enough cars and trucks for their domestic market. They have recently started a passenger jet airline product line and are building ships/submarines. My last sentence is significant because both of those industries suffered significantly with the rapid deterioration with their relationship with Ukraine. They had to re-route all of their production locally.

            I don’t know what you are actually trying to say. If you compare the Russians to say, Saudi Arabia, it would be a fair apples to apples comparison because of their dependency on oil. While both have roughly the same 6% unemployment rate, the KSA has to import almost half of their workers from other countries while Russia uses their native population. Russia has a large manufacturing sector and exports much more agricultural products. Russia builds massive bridges like the one they are building to connect Crimea.

            Russia has advanced electronics in their T-50 and Su-27+ line and GPS guided bombs, do you think that doesn’t require electronics? Russia has tested hypersonic missiles that change their flight path in midair and still guides itself to a target, wouldn’t that require electronics and advanced materials?

          • dutchnational

            Russia has an excellent weapons industry but, compared to the west, a limited total production capacity. Also, the russian population is very small, not even 150 million and shrinking.

            The US has more than double and is much more productive and growing.

            Europe has even more people, some 500 mln, and also a much larger economy. Yes, militarily Europe is pretty weak but Russian strategic position has been much weakened when the border went 500 miles to the east and more then 100 mln people joined the west with their, admittedly, relatively weak armies.

            So, Russia will lose a war with the west unless they have a surprise and win within a week, which is not likely.

            Therefore, no hot war, but maybe a cold war.

          • Njordheim

            In short 17 years of their existence EU sunk over $14 trillion dollars in debt. US is worst with over $20 trillions in debt but in simple terms fairplay has a point also. Make more kids, less drinking, less corruption, more diversification and innovation and technological self-sufficiency would help. Doing this under sanctions and without foreign investments is another matter and Washington knows that well enough. Thus the semi-gentle chock-hold that will not be lessened as the same “economic forces” control the entire West.

  • A rather extreme speculation :
    I remember that for a while it seemed that SDF would march against Raqqa. But the last weeks SDF moved only towards west.
    So, in the race for Raqqa SAA has no opponent and needs not to move fast

    • dutchnational

      The SDF is still building up strength and are rapidly expanding. Soon the conscript army will be taking over defense of the villages and towns and the battle hardened YPG and YPJ, also expanding fast, will be freed for offensive roles.

      I expect Manbij to be liberated before the first of august and then they will have to choose : Raqqa or Al Bab and on to Afrin.

      • I guess the last option…….

  • Michael

    Syria is best served by conquering all of the land that it can below the Euphrates River. Above that, leave it to SDF and the Kurds, unless they leave it open. Syria’s future is in the oil and gas below the Euphrates and it is that land they need to make sure that they return to Syria.

    • dutchnational

      This might work for both the SDF and the US, provided they connect Afrin and Kobane and the SDF gets the equipment of the quamishli and hassakah garrison.

      Raqqa is above the river so to the SDF. DeirezZor is below, so to the SAA.

      Together they can destroy IS in Syria. SAA can deal with the islamists in the south and idlib.

      A federation of three parts : Rojava, Sunni arab and Assadistan?

  • Robert Guttierez

    When asked about building a 2nd air base, Putin said their jets could get to anywhere in Syria in less then 30 minutes so there was no need for a 2nd base and the rumors were false. I would think that would be fast enough to detect, track and destroy enemy tanks and heavy weapons. So I don’t buy the excuse that they don’t have enough time and can only target stationary targets. If that is the case, maybe it’s time to bring back more jets and have them loiter high in the sky safe from manpads and able to swoop down on enemy targets in a moments notice. The Americans are supporting the front lines and they are flying from just as far if not even farther.

    • Technically: 1 – Americans bomb targets in limited areas (In Syria, this is the city of Manbij), much less than 70km of the road. 2 – You forgot fast the real effectiveness of the US-led efforts before the US troops were deployed to the frontline this year. 3 – In this post, SF provide facts about the situation on the ground. The goals and decisions of Russian leadership are separate topic.

    • Njordheim

      What Putin said is true but once you know more it is more complex then you’d think on a tactical level. By the time you relate the coordinates of the 3 pickup trucks loitering around a battlefield to the moment the jets can arrive these vehicles could be 3 or 30km or more away. Try finding or shooting moving pickup truck from F-16 or any bomber of fighter jet, – this is not what they are designed for. Bombers are not designed to look around for pickup trucks and shoot them on the run. This is why you have helicopters and close air support jets like A-10 and SU-25’s which are the single most effective Russian aircraft deployed to Syria but they cannot stay in the air above the battlefield. They are slow, low-altitude flying tanks, with their inherent tactical limitation that can only be filled by helicopters, which are even slower to arrive and faster to leave as they have limited amount of fuel. The much-vaunted Su-34 Fullback bomber is not likely to play a significant role— number of jets they’ve deployed are not enough to fly ‘sustained sorties,’ certainly not twenty-four hour ATO [Air Tasking Order].

      • Nomid

        You really don’t seem like you have an updated knowledge about the types of ordnances that is carried by modern weapon platforms, nor the type of intel sharing that is carried out by such weapons platforms… Your generalized explanation is,, hmm, VERY generalized… Modern weapons deployed from an F-16, or B 52, B2 etc.. Have no problems hitting moving targets.., at all… Brimstone and Paveway IV are all engineered for moving targets up to 70mph and is used in Syria by coalition forces.. It is just a more expensive solution than what your average Heli would provide

  • John Whitehot

    su-24 and 34 are well within their range, we’ve read lots of reports of russian bombers bombing raqqa earlier. wtf are you talking about, there must be something else you aren’t telling.

    • Robert Guttierez

      That’s the problem, they attack the city centers and not the front lines where soldiers need air cover. They bombers need to destroy any vehicle bigger than a moped to clear the way and the infantry and mechanized divisions can clear the rest out. Instead they are bombing city centers that the Army might not reach for days or weeks.

  • Serg

    Close air support is requires the aircraft to be on station within 5 minutes of encountering the enemy. Plus in order to properly support large offensive operations the aircrafts need to have hours of “play time” in such a wide and quickly changing battle space. These goals are not possible with without air refueling and and nearby resupply airbases. I highly doubt SAA can receive combat aviation (aka helicopter support) in the Raqqah front, the range a helicopters is a lot shorter. And I suspect the Su- air support is only available for 20-30minutes at a time with maybe hours of no air support. To make matters worse Russian air support is based form 1 airbase and they are needed all over Syria. This is an extreme strain on the aircrafts, pilots and maintainers. Their optempo must be insane. My guess is that the Planners of the Raqqah operation were overconfident in their abilities from the quick success in Palmira. (they forgot that Palmira was an extended front of ISIS not the main heart of its operations).
    Inshallah the SAA and its allies can reorganize, adapt and overcome.

    • dutchnational

      Russia needs another airbase, more to the east. As the SAA is not very good in protecting its airbases, maybe the Russians can lease one from the SDF. Say a helicopter base between Manbij and the Tishreen dam, defended by the SDF as they know how to dig in?