A look at recent developments in Syria. [Updated below June 14 1:00am EDT]
(Source: Al Watan Online – Please click for a much bigger picture)
The most important change over the last days was the Syrian government forces move (red areas and arrows) in the south-east towards the Iraqi border. The original plan was to retrieve al-Tanf further south-west to secure the border crossing of the Damascus-Baghdad highway there. But al-Tanf was occupied by U.S., British and Norwegian invaders and some of their proxy forces (blue). Their airplanes attacked Syrian army convoys when they approached.
The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.
The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came. The Russian military has made it very clear that it would intervene forcefully should the U.S. attack the Syrian line and move further north.
The U.S. and its allies have no mandate to be in Syria in the first place. There is no justification or legal ground for them to attack any Syrian units. Their only option now is to retreat. The U.S. move into al-Tanf was covered by an attack of U.S. proxy forces in the south-west of Syria.
A large group of “rebels”, which include al-Qaeda elements and is supplied from Jordan, moved to take the city of Deraa from Syrian government control. It was hoped that this attack would divert Syrian forces from their move east.
But despite the use of suicide bombers the attack on Deraa failed to overwhelm the strong defenses of the Syrian forces. It did not provide the necessary diversion. The Syrian position in Deraa was reinforced by units from Damascus which are now attacking the U.S. proxy gangs. Significant progress was made today in the southern suburbs of Deraa and the Syrian army attack will likely continue the move until it has reached the Jordanian border.
The U.S. plans in south Syria, in the west as well as in the east, have failed for now. Unless the Trump administration is willing to invest significant more forces and to openly and against all laws wage war on the Syria government and its allies the situation there is contained. The Syrian forces will over time recapture all the (blue colored) land in the south that is currently held by the various U.S. proxies and other terrorist groups.
In the north-west the Takfiri “rebel” groups are concentrated around Idleb and further north. These groups are sponsored by Saudi, Qatari and Turkish money. The recent spat between Qatar and other Gulf states has throw the Idleb situation into further chaos. Saudi sponsored groups are now fighting Qatari and Turkish sponsored groups. These conflicts come on top of other animosities between al-Qaeda aligned forces and those of Ahrar al-Sham.
The Syrian government forces keep the province surrounded and Turkey in the north has kept its border mostly closed. The Takfiri “rebels” in Idleb will cook in their own juices until they are well done and completely exhausted. Eventually government forces will move in and destroy whatever is left of them.
In the center of the map the Syrian army (red) arrows are pointing towards the central desert areas held by ISIS forces which are retreating towards the east (black arrows). Moving simultaneously from the north, west and south the Syrian government forces make fast progress with several kilometers of ground retaken each day. During the last month 4,000 square kilometers and over 100 settlements and towns have been recovered. Within a few weeks they will have recovered all the (brown) ISIS held areas up to the Euphrates river line and the Syrian-Iraqi border.
Russian military bridging equipment recently started to arrive in Syria. It will be needed to cross the Euphrates and to recover the areas north of it.
Meanwhile U.S. supported Kurdish forces (yellow arrows) are attacking the ISIS held city of Raqqa. The Russian military command claims (video) that the Kurds and the U.S. made a deal with ISIS to let its fighters leave Raqqa towards the south and east. The fast progress the Kurds are making in taking the city supports that claim. There seems to be barely any Islamic State resistance left.
All ISIS forces left in Syria, those coming from Raqqa as well as those from the desert areas, are moving east along the Euphrates towards the city of Deir Ezzor. There as many as 100,000+ government aligned civilians and a Syrian army garrison have long been surrounded by ISIS forces. The besieged people are supplied by air drops. The Syrian military garrison has long held off the attacking ISIS forces. But with thousands of new Islamic State forces coming towards the city the government troops are in real danger of getting overwhelmed.
Reinforcements must be flown into the city to keep ISIS off and to prevent a very large massacre. A much better alternative is a relief line on the ground. But the Syrian army race towards the city had been delayed by the U.S. shenanigans in the south. A new large ground move of government forces towards Deir Ezzor is in preparation. One can only hope that they arrive in time.
Qatari, Saudi and Turkish proxy forces, directed by the CIA, have waged a six year long war against Syria and its people. With Qatar and Turkey now in opposition to the Saudis and their U.S. allies, the gang that attacked Syria is falling apart. The Islamic State is shrinking fast and nearly defeated. The U.S. attempt to gain ground in the south has been stopped.
Unless the U.S. changes tact and starts a large scale attack on Syria with its own army forces the war on Syria is over. Many areas still need to be recovered by Syrian forces. Terrorist attacks within the country will continue for several years. The wounds will take decades to heal. Negotiations will have to be held over areas in the north now under Turkish or U.S. (proxy) control. Further settlements will have to be reached. But the large scale strategic war against Syria has for now ended.
No one has won anything. The Kurds, which for while looked like the sole winner of the war, have just thrown away their gains.
The U.S. supported Kurdish forces of the YPG made the lunatic error of openly asking for support from Saudi Arabia. The anarcho-marxists of the YPG, always proudly showing off their feminism, are suddenly bowing down in front of the medieval Wahhabi nutters. They thus ruined their appearance of being a progressive leftist force. This move will reinforce Turkish and Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian animosity and hostility against them.
All political advances they made during the war by staying mostly neutral between “rebels” and the Syrian government is now in jeopardy. The move is crazy. The Kurdish held area is completely surrounded by more or less hostile forces. U.S. or Saudi support for the land-locked and encircled Kurdish enclave is not sustainable over any longer time-frame. The Kurds have thus again demonstrated that they are their own worst enemies in their striving for a (semi-)sovereign Kurdish state. They will be thrown back into their original areas and again be folded up into the Syrian state.
Secretary of Defense Mattis was questioned in Congress yesterday about the situation in Syria. There is no transcript yet but here are some tweets from a Stars & Stripes journalist who attended:
Tara Copp @TaraCopp – 3:11 PM – 13 Jun 2017
#SecDef Mattis says “pro regime” forces that have moved into S. Syria near #AnTanf base are actually #Russian 1/2
#SecDef Mattis: “I did not anticipate that the #Russians would move there (near At Tanf.) … it was not a surprise to our intel people.”
The U.S. had claimed that the Syrian government aligned forces moving towards al-Tanf were “Iran backed” or “Iran led”. Now the Secretary of Defense says that was a lie. They were Russians allied with the Syrian government. The Russians certainly do not take their orders from some Iranian generals. It is no wonder than that the Russian command issued strong warnings against any attacks on these forces.
Mattis also exposes that he is incapable of strategic thinking. He really believed that Russian would not move to al-Tanf to cover for their Syrian comrades? It has been clear your months now that the Russians are all-in in Syria. They will not let the Syrian government fall to make nice with Mattis or Trump or anyone else. The strategic issue for them is clear and has been for a while. They will fight. They said so. It was utterly stupid to believe anything else.
Al-Tanf is a tactical issue but the U.S. military elevates it to a strategic one. This is clearly not justified. We have to ask again what the possible gains for the U.S. are from defending that place in the empty desert. There is none to be had but defending it out of “principle” could evidently start a much bigger war.
[T]he Tanf garrison is now surrounded by hostile forces. The U.S. forces in the area would have to fight through regime positions to get to al Bukamal, further risking escalation.
What now? Is the United States prepared to protect these forces in perpetuity? Will the U.S. provide air cover for forces that clash directly with regime allied assets outside of the 55-kilometer zone? Did the previous three strikes prompt a counter-escalatory act that undermined U.S. interests? Sadly, the answer to the last question is yes.
Strategy should drive tactics when it comes to handling Iranian-backed elements in Syria, not the other way around.
The United States has the capability to defend a garrison in the Syrian desert. However, the reasons for doing so are devoid of any purpose, making a simple cost benefit analysis all but impossible.
That insight has obviously not yet reached the Defense Department and the U.S. command on the ground. The local U.S. commander moved a U.S. HIMARS long-range artillery system from Jordan to al-Tanf. HIMARS has a range of 300 kilometers. It makes no difference from a tactical perspective if its fires from Jordan or from al-Tanf in Syria some 12 kilometers east of the border line. It is a symbolic move to “show flag” in al-Tanf but it exposes the system to a legitimate attack by Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces.
As Secretary of State Tillerson rightly said: The U.S. has no legal authority to attack Syrian, Iranian or Russian forces. None at all. It is invading Syria with no legitimate reason. Syria, in contrast, has the legal authority to throw the U.S. troops out.
To move the HIMARS to al-Tanf is utterly stupid grandstanding. It is high time for Washington to shut such nonsense down.
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