Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Triumph of the Anti-Terror Trio

"It’s not going to happen [Russia's plan to retake Idlib] because of the military difficulties. [The campaign in fact resembles a] failure [due to the] incompetence [of the Syrian army along with] the lack of determination of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps."
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Saban Forum, Brookings Institution

<p>Backing down?</p>
 Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
Backing down?
Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
"They are losing lieutenants. When you lose lieutenants it means you are losing people fighting on the front lines." 
"If the Iranians feel over the long term they need a deal, if the cost of maintaining the Assad government is too great for them, then these developments are a positive. If they feel the costs of the battle can be sustained for months, if not years, they may be able to pay that price. They put a high value on maintaining the Assad government as it is now."
Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Syria (2011--2014) 
"With regard to strikes from a submarine [at rebel forces in Syria]. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads."
"Naturally, we do not need that in fighting terrorists, and I hope we will never need it. But overall, this speaks to our significant progress in terms of improving weaponry and equipment being supplied to the Russian army and navy."
Russian President Vladimir Putin 

"[Would Russia use nuclear weapons on terrorists?] Of course not, and the president has stated this, that there is no need to use any nuclear weapons against terrorists, as they can be defeated through conventional means, and this is fully in line with our military doctrine."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Image from footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website shows cruise missiles launching from Rostov-on-Don submarine at eastern Mediterranean Sea in a direction of Syria. Cannot be independently verified by AP.
Image from footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website shows cruise missiles launching from Rostov-on-Don submarine at eastern Mediterranean Sea in a direction of Syria. AP
It seems that on the surface there is complete confidence that the alliance between Russia, Iran and Hezbollah has succeeded in their goal to defeat the rebel "terrorist" forces doing their utmost under great odds to remove Bashar al-Assad from his post as chief slaughterer-in-residence. But Western intelligence is in business to probe the depths of veracity and it appears they are finding it lacking in substance. From what Israel and the U.S. have discerned from their intelligence-gathering all is not as the three Bashkateers had hoped.

For both the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxy militia Hezbollah, the champions of the Syrian Baathist regime, are showing battle fatigue. Fatigue born of unsustainable losses. Not only have their campaigns to turn back the tide of rebel victories stumbled badly, but the losses being sustained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps -- whom unforeseen events have conspired to recommend retreat from the Syrian combat zone -- has greatly diminished their fighting numbers in Syria. The Syrian opposition has clearly been more functionally supported, realizing some notable advances.

The assessment was that over seven thousand IRGC members were actively engaged in forwarding the interests of the Syrian regime. Back in October, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford had testified on the presence of two thousand Iranian troops in Syria fighting for Assad. General Qassam Suleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard foreign forces had succeeded in persuading Iranian authorities to authorize a surge in Iranian fighters to achieve his planned goal.

A number of Iranian generals have succumbed to the war they have been dispatched to engage in, and reports have surfaced that in Aleppo in late November General Suleimani himself had been injured.  [Soleimani is "in perfect health and full of energy": Rameza Sharif, IRGC spokesman.] Now, it is believed by Western intelligence that one-tenth of the original number of Iranian troops fighting in Syria remain there; 700 in total fighting in the offensive under Russian air support, on top of the embedded Iranian Iranian forces fighting with the Syrian armed forces.

A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)
A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)

The challenge that Moscow had responded to in its support of the Syrian President has been further complicated not only by the withdrawal of the vast bulk of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps but the mirror-image withdrawal of Hezbollah. Obviously, it is demoralizing where in just one day of fighting a senior IRGC commander along with fourteen low-ranking personnel were killed in early December. The "Fateh Army" against whom the IRGC have concentrated in northwestern Syria appear to have gained the upper hand.

Which leaves Hezbollah in a rather uncertain situation. Russian air strikes, it appears, have proven less than decisive in aiding Hezbollah to advance their positions. Moreover, over a third of Hezbollah's fighting force is thought to have been killed or injured in Syria. An estimated 1,500 were killed, and an additional 5,000 wounded, according to intelligence figures. Iran hasn't relied solely on its Lebanese proxy militia, but has recruited Shiite militias from Iraq, from Pakistan and from Afghanistan, some of whom were forced to fight in Syria.

It was reported back in the summer by Israel Radio that Hezbollah had taken the rather unusual step of arresting 175 of its own fighters who had refused to be involved in fighting in the Syrian city of Zabadani, close to Lebanon's border. Asharz al-Awsat, the pan-Arab newspaper was quoted as having reported that Hezbollah fighters dispatched to Syria were evincing reluctance to confront the Syrian rebel groups. Evidently 120 Hezbollah fighters had been killed in conflicts with Syrian opposition groups and another 200 wounded.

Convincing reasons, evidently, as far as the Hezbollah fighters were concerned, to remain in Lebanon and do their battles from there. In fact, from the assaults that have taken place in Lebanon against Hezbollah-controlled areas, there may be a growing need, through the Sunni backlash, for them to remain there and defend themselves. So the next question is, where does that leave the situation in Syria?

General Soleimani had travelled too Moscow to meet with President Putin to offer convincing reasons why it would be in Russia's best interest to become involved directly in the military support of the Syrian regime against the "terrorists" who were besetting it. What was in Iran's interests, even with the reality that its good relations with Turkey would be turned inside-out, was also in Russia's interests. Turkey was so inside-out as to be sufficiently deranged leading to downing a Russian plane.

So the fallout of the fallout of the Syrian Shiite Alawites with their Syrian Sunni majority has, as Bashar al-Assad warned, should the "terrorists" lead him reluctantly into opposing their opposition to himself, a wider regional cataclysm. It has embroiled Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, NATO, the United States and Russia. And Bashar al-Assad, who began it all, is still enjoying his killing sprees.

Creating the world's most unstoppable refugee crisis, flooding and enveloping all of Europe.

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