Friday, October 16, 2015

Defending Bashar al-Assad

"Sending more troops from Hezbollah and Iran only increases the shelf life of the Syrian regime, which is destined to end."
"It will only add more destruction and displacement."
"Now [Iranian ground troops] are taking cover behind Russia."
Major Jamil Saleh, leader, Tajammu Alezzah, Free Syrian Army faction
Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards march during a parade ceremony just outside Tehran.
Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards march during a parade ceremony just outside Tehran. Photograph: Vahid Salemi/AP

"There is no doubt an Iranian escalation [is being] coordinated with the Russian intervention. There is an operational and territorial division of labour, whereby Iran contributes skilled manpower and Russia air power, probably increasingly in the form of close air support."
"It is no coincidence that three Iranian generals have been killed in just a week. The planning and operations of ambitious campaigns require senior oversight so more risk-taking by Iranian generals."
Emile Hokayem, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
Embedded image permalink
So many cell phones around in speaking to mixed volunteers and forces - Dudi Cohen, Twitter

What was fairly well acknowledged for quite some time, that members of the Iranian military are fighting on the ground in Syria along with Iran's proxy militia Hezbollah, has now been verified. With Russia's entry into Syrian bombing missions providing air cover, Iran feels its investment in fighting alongside Syria's military and with the aid of Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite death-squad militias, it will be only a matter of time before the 'takfiri terrorists' are vanquished.

Russia has aligned itself with the Shiite triangle in conflict with Sunni jihadists. To the Sunni terrorists the Shiites represent apostasy, and Islam recommends death for apostates. To the Shiite terrorists the Sunnis represent all that is wrong with Islam, leading them to their duty to vanquish their sectarian foes, and since the Middle East, like most of the Muslim sectarian divide is majority Sunni, each fiercely hating the other, it appears that a larger religious conflict may emerge from the ashes of Syria.

Complicating matters is the political enmity between Russia and the United States; Russia in fact and NATO; Russia and Europe in general. But it is Russian warplanes in malappropriately close aerial contact with American warplanes, both flying in Syrian airspace, that potentially hovers on the brink of a far wider conflict, with the two adversaries as close as any time in the near past to coming to virtual blows over disputed territories.

Russia claims one of its planes on a bombing raid approached a U.S. jet in the area merely for identification purposes; to ratify that it was indeed an American warplane on a mission of its own, bombing Islamic State targets, whereas the Russian plane was engaged in a mission to bomb Syrian rebel targets with which the U.S. is affiliated. No harm intended, nothing to get exercised about, just an innocent approach. The kind of provocative approach, in fact, that pilots in parts of Europe and Scandinavia have also been introduced to.

But then, the whole wide world misunderstands Russian intentions, which are anything but hostile. The misunderstanding, for example, of what Russia is doing in Syrian airspace; striking ISIL, of course. Western officials and Syrian rebels on the other hand, are joined in their condemnation of Russian strikes, claiming most of the strikes have hit areas in central and northern Syria where ISIL has little-to-no presence.
Quds force commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani arrived in for the expected military campaign -- Ali Hashem, Twitter

According to a Syrian official well versed in operational details in Syria, the (additional) Iranian fighters, some 1,500 in number, began their arrival weeks ago, accelerating recently. Hezbollah too has increased its presence, sending in fresh waves of fighters. The aligned troops were in the process of preparations for an offensive in Aleppo province. Iranian and Syrian officials on the other hand continue to insist that Iran has only advisers and military experts in Syria; no need for ground troops.

Somewhat similar in flavour to Moscow's continual denials that any Russian troops were present at any time in eastern Ukraine, including the juncture when Russia decided to scoop the Crimean peninsula back into the Russian Federation in one fell swoop of derring-do. Daring the international community to do anything about Russia acting as Russia always does, in its own near-abroad, which was once its very own.

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