Tag Archives: syria

Stratfor: Why ISIS lost Fallujah. What will jihad 3.0 look like?

Summary: Iraq forces (army & militia) have retaken Fallujah, another step by Jihad 2.0 (ISIS) towards its inevitable end. Here Stratfor describes why ISIS loses, along with the obligatory hopes that this begins the reunification of the Sunni Arab regions back into Iraq (hopes for a return of the Kurds are long gone).  Read this as a jihadist. Imagine what they have learned, and what they plan for Jihad 3.0.

Stratfor

Living With the Islamic State

By Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 30 June 2016

After over a month of fighting, the Iraqi government has at last reclaimed the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State’s grasp. Clearing the city of any remaining fighters could take weeks, and removing the booby traps left behind will almost certainly take months. Nevertheless, the June 26 defeat is a huge symbolic loss for the jihadist group and a significant victory for the forces trying to discredit and destroy it.

Fallujah has a history as a hotbed for jihadist insurgency. In 2004, the U.S. military had to invade the city twice to wrest it from the hands of the jihadists controlling it. The second attempt, an operation that lasted more than six weeks, resulted in some of the heaviest urban combat that American troops experienced during their occupation of Iraq.

It came as no surprise when, a decade later, Fallujah became the first Iraqi city to fall to jihadists trying to expand their territory. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant seized the town in January 2014, six months before it swept through Mosul. A few weeks after Mosul’s highly publicized fall, the group declared that it had re-established the Islamic Caliphate and changed its name to one that better reflected its global ambitions: the Islamic State.

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Stratfor: Why the Islamic State Is Weaker Than It Seems

Summary: As I and others expected, the mad tactics and strategy of ISIS has resulted in a series of defeats. Here Stratfor evaluates the actual strength of ISIS, its strategic position, and likely future moves.

The late American strategist John Boyd (Colonel, USAF) said that a grand strategy focused our nation’s actions — political, economic, and military — to increase our our cohesion, weaken our opponents’ resolve and cohesion, strengthen our allies’ relationships to us, attract the uncommitted to our cause, and end conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts. (Patterns of Conflict, slide 139.)

Stratfor

Why the Islamic State Is Weaker Than It Seems
Lead Analyst: Omar Lamrani
Stratfor, 13 June 2016

Forecast

In Syria, the Islamic State will continue to lose cities and vital territory. The group will react to its losses by relying more heavily on insurgent and terrorist tactics, ensuring that it remains a serious threat. The continued disenfranchisement of Sunnis in Syria will enable the Islamic State, and groups like it, to maintain a foothold in the country.

Analysis

In Syria, the Islamic State is in crisis. Over the past 3 years, the group has managed to expand from a regional nuisance to a force with global relevance, declaring a caliphate in June 2014 that stretched from Iraq’s Diyala province to Syria’s Aleppo province. By doing so, it linked the two nations into a single zone of conflict and drew the attention of numerous powers, including the United States, Turkey and Russia. Today, the group maintains a presence from western Iraq to the Syria-Lebanon border — an impressive territorial spread.

But the breadth of the Islamic State’s holdings in Syria is deceptive. The group’s actual reach is largely limited to small, dispersed enclaves. The unbroken expanses of territory under its control are mostly empty desert. And a look at the group’s three core Syrian areas — northern Aleppo province, Raqqa and Deir el-Zour — shows how the Islamic State is steadily losing ground across its scattered, self-declared empire. Together, these territories form the foundation of the group’s power in the country and are critical to sustaining flows of revenue, fighters and materiel. Yet all three are under threat.

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The hidden truth about Putin’s threat to nuke Turkey in Syria

Summary: Are there any limits to our gullibility? Why have clickbait and wild rumors come to dominate the news? A hot new story raises these questions. A possible answer reveals much about America and the decay of our democracy. {Second of two posts today.}

Ignorance is a choice

A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.

— From Robert Parry’s “Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?” in Consortium News. Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the AP and Newsweek, and wrote Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq (2005) and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ (1999).

It is an exciting story, and might even be true. Bu why would anybody take it seriously with such weak sourcing? We would, in an America where the Outer Party (its managers and professional) read for entertainment, not entertainment.  Zero Hedge, Pat Lang, Naked Capitalism and many others uncritically repeated this story.

I’ve been reporting on this kind of fun rumor since the FM website was created. Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web (resolved here), Robert Fisk’s story about a conspiracy to wreck the US dollarAmerica’s biological attack on the Ukraine arm, The North Pole is now a lake! (Are you afraid yet?), and the secret reason why The Government Stopped Reporting Lake Mead Water Levels. Even better are the recurring stories, such as the countless false rumors from Debkafile, Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons will kill us soon stories, plus the  annual Iran will have the bomb in 5 years stories.

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Patrick Cockburn looks at the new, strange developments in the Syrian war

Summary:  At first just another civil war in a small State, the Syrian civil war increasingly becomes a fulcrum on which rotates the regional powers of the Middle East and several of the world’s great powers. Each phase of the expanding war has defied the confident predictions of experts. Here journalist Patrick Cockburn describes the state of the war. As for the future, anything can happen.

Syria flag

“Too Weak, Too Strong: the state of the Syrian war”

By Patrick Cockburn
London Review of Books, 5 November 2015 issue
Posted with the permission of the author and the LRB.

The military balance of power in Syria and Iraq is changing. The Russian air strikes that have been taking place since the end of September are strengthening and raising the morale of the Syrian army, which earlier in the year looked fought out and was on the retreat. With the support of Russian airpower, the army is now on the offensive in and around Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, and is seeking to regain lost territory in Idlib province. Syrian commanders on the ground are reportedly relaying the co-ordinates of between 400 and 800 targets to the Russian air force every day, though only a small proportion of them come under immediate attack. The chances of Bashar al-Assad’s government falling – though always more remote than many suggested – are disappearing. Not that this means he is going to win.

(1)  Failure of the US air war

The drama of Russian military action, while provoking a wave of Cold War rhetoric from Western leaders and the media, has taken attention away from an equally significant development in the war in Syria and Iraq. This has been the failure over the last year of the US air campaign – which began in Iraq in August 2014 before being extended to Syria – to weaken Islamic State and other al-Qaida-type groups. By October the US-led coalition had carried out 7323 air strikes, the great majority of them by the US air force, which made 3231 strikes in Iraq and 2487 in Syria.

But the campaign has demonstrably failed to contain IS, which in May captured Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. There have been far fewer attacks against the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the extreme Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, which between them dominate the insurgency in northern Syria. The US failure is political as much as military: it needs partners on the ground who are fighting IS, but its choice is limited because those actually engaged in combat with the Sunni jihadis are largely Shia – Iran itself, the Syrian army, Hizbullah, the Shia militias in Iraq – and the US can’t offer them full military co-operation because that would alienate the Sunni states, the bedrock of America’s power in the region. As a result the US can only use its air force in support of the Kurds.

The US faces the same dilemma in Iraq and Syria today as it did after 9/11 when George Bush declared the war on terror. It was known then that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi and the money for the operation came from Saudi donors. But the US didn’t want to pursue al-Qaida at the expense of its relations with the Sunni states, so it muted criticism of Saudi Arabia and invaded Iraq; similarly, it never confronted Pakistan over its support for the Taliban, ensuring that the movement was able to regroup after losing power in 2001.

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Peter van Buren asks what the Middle East would look like if we hadn’t helped

Summary: Today Peter van Buren examines the madness that is the core of America’s foreign policy — our relationship to the Middle East. We have set the region afire, with consequences unknowable. Until we learn from our mistakes, we’ll continue to make them. Second of 2 posts today.

Destabilizing the Middle East

What If They Gave a War and Everyone Came?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (October 2015 Edition)

By Peter Van Buren
From TomDispatch, 22 October 2015
Reposted with their gracious permission

What if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq in 2003? How would things be different in the Middle East today? Was Iraq, in the words of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the “worst foreign policy blunder” in American history? Let’s take a big-picture tour of the Middle East and try to answer those questions. But first, a request: after each paragraph that follows, could you make sure to add the question “What could possibly go wrong?”

Let the History Begin

In March 2003, when the Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq, the region, though simmering as ever, looked like this: Libya was stable, ruled by the same strongman for 42 years; in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak had been in power since 1983; Syria had been run by the Assad family since 1971; Saddam Hussein had essentially been in charge of Iraq since 1969, formally becoming president in 1979; the Turks and Kurds had an uneasy but functional ceasefire; and Yemen was quiet enough, other than the terror attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Relations between the U.S. and most of these nations were so warm that Washington was routinely rendering “terrorists” to their dungeons for some outsourced torture.

Soon after March 2003, when U.S. troops invaded Iraq, neighboring Iran faced two American armies at the peak of their strength. To the east, the U.S. military had effectively destroyed the Taliban and significantly weakened al-Qaeda, both enemies of Iran, but had replaced them as an occupying force. To the west, Iran’s decades-old enemy, Saddam, was gone, but similarly replaced by another massive occupying force. From this position of weakness, Iran’s leaders, no doubt terrified that the Americans would pour across its borders, sought real diplomatic rapprochement with Washington for the first time since 1979. The Iranian efforts were rebuffed by the Bush administration.

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Stratfor: The Loyalist Offensive Begins in Syria, with Russia’s help

Summary: As regional and global powers search for a solution to the Syrian civil war, fighting on the ground appears to be on the verge of worsening. Both loyalist and rebel forces are preparing for two new offensives within the coming months that will greatly influence the trajectory of the conflict ahead. This report by Strafor looks at the combined Russia – Syrian government offensive.

Russia’s military deployment to Syria was carried out with the permission of Damascus, and is “completely legal and legitimate under international law.” “The difference with Russian presence and presence of all these special forces that are now operating in Syria is that the US was not asked by the legitimate Syrian government to interfere and they were in breach of Syrian sovereignty.”

— Dirk Adriaensens (actiist, bio here).

Stratfor

In Syria, the Loyalist Offensive Begin

Stratfor, 8 October 2015

The Syrian government’s long-expected offensive against the country’s rebel forces has begun. On Oct. 7, loyalist troops advanced against rebel-held positions in northern Hama with the support of numerous Russian airstrikes as well as both rocket and tube artillery fire. Initial reports from the battlefield suggest that the rebels, primarily the Free Syrian Army, are putting up an effective defense in spite of heavy shelling. The rebels’ liberal use of improvised explosive devices and anti-tank guided missiles has taken a heavy toll on loyalist armor; several reports say rebels destroyed 17 armored fighting vehicles on the first day of the fight, and combat footage has confirmed the destruction of at least nine vehicles.

Despite the initial setback, the loyalists’ Russian-backed offensive has only just begun. Already there have been heavy airstrikes in the Al-Ghab plain, signaling the spread of the offensive to other areas of Hama. Loyalists are also preparing to assault the northern Homs pocket and to push toward the Kweiris air base, where several allied groups are still engaged in fighting with Islamic State forces.

Russian airstrikes in Syria

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Stratfor shows that the Russians Are Coming – to Syria

Summary: The United States has almost 800 bases in 70 nations around the world, so it’s natural that Russia building a base in Syria would spark hysteria among Americans. So rather than pay attention to our special operations units, active in 135 nations this past year, let’s focus on the Russians in Syria. Stratfor provides the satellite photos and analysis that tell you what you need to know. Use the knowledge wisely.

Stratfor

Explaining Russia’s True Presence in Syria

Stratfor, 25 September 2015

Stratfor has been closely tracking the Russian buildup of military power at Bassel al Assad air base in Syria, charting the uptick of forces throughout September. Aside from the air assets and defensive ground capacity identified at the air base, reports indicate potential Russian activity at several other locations across the Syrian coastal region.

Widely circulated satellite photography dated Sept. 13 revealed construction at the Istamo weapons storage facility and the appearance of tents at the al-Sanobar military facility south of Latakia. Though this led to conclusions of a possible Russian military presence at those facilities, more recent and detailed imagery provided by our partners at AllSource Analysis seems to contradict this assertion.

Satellite imagery of the al-Sanobar military complex from Sept. 23 does not show any sign of a notable Russian military presence. The tent camp that was present in the Sept. 13 imagery is nowhere to be seen. Also, no particular Russian military equipment or vehicles can be identified.

Russian forces likely move through the area frequently because of their continued activity at the port of Latakia, the activity at the nearby Bassel al Assad air base, and the transit of Russia advisers and trainers to the Syrian front lines, where they are embedded with military units. Because of this, it is possible that the Sept. 13 imagery caught a temporary encampment of Russian forces operating in the Syrian coastal area, as opposed to a more sustained deployment of combat forces to the al-Sanobar complex.

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