A Battle of Eight Armies: Syria Update

Events have begun to spin out of control in Syria. Last week the Israelis lost an IAF F-16I Fighting Falcon. Though both the pilots were able to safely eject and survived. They came down in Israeli controlled territoryThe Israelis, of course, responded to the downing of their F-16 with a large scale reprisal. This included shooting down an Iranian drone – based on the US drone the Iranians downed in 2011. So we can now confirm that actually happened.

While this Israeli Vs Iranian in support of Syria and backed by Russia engagement was happening, the Syrian/Iranian/Russian coalition stepped up their attacks on Idlib and Ghouta.

The Turks lost a rotary wing (helicopter) craft last week as well. It was shot down by the US allied Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near Afrin. Two Turkish Soldiers were killed.

Syrian Arab Armed Forces also conducted an attack against the US allied Kurds, which prompted a response from the US led coalition – Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF OIR):

US Special Operations Forces (SOF) are currently stationed in Manbij in a train, advise, and assist mission to the YPG.

It has been reported that anywhere between 100 (the official-ish number) and 600 Russian contractors fighting in Syria were killed in the US Coalition strikes last week.

While LTG Funk, Commander 1st Corps US Army and Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve talked about deconfliction and deescalation in the CNN clip above, he has a battlespace that is becoming more and more complex by the day. There are a lot of moving pieces in his operating environment (OE): Kurdish militia forces being supported by US SOF, the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force, Russian contractors, Iran’s Qud’s Force, Hezbullah’s military wing in support of Syria and Iran, the Turkish military, and Israel. And don’t forget ISIS. They may have lost almost all of the territory they seized to form their caliphate, but they are by no means finished. That is a lot of deconfliction and deescalation!

Moreover, while all of this is going on, and the US is being sucked deeper into the mess that is the Syrian Civil War, Russia continues to expand its interests in the region. In November it struck a deal with Egypt for basing Russian Air Force planes. Just last week the Russians and the Sudanese (that’s the northern, Republic of Sudan of the Sudans) came to an agreement for Russian military support to train and modernize the Sudanese Army.

Finally, it is unclear what the official US response will be. While the US led coalition is sticking with its Kurdish allies in Syria, it is unclear what decision will be made in DC by the National Command Authority. The President’s predilection for Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept the new, Congressionally mandated sanctions from being imposedAnd it appears that the decision to get rid of the Interagency produced, properly put together list of Russians to be named and shamed was made by a senior administration official, which lead to the rush job copy and paste from Forbes that was released.

A “name-and-shame” list of Russian oligarchs who made their money corruptly from their ties with Vladimir Putin was compiled by the US government agencies but then cancelled last week by a senior administration official, according to a Russia expert who was consulted on the list.

It was replaced by an all-inclusive list of rich Russians apparently copied straight from the Forbes magazine’s ranking of wealthy Russians, together with the names of some top Kremlin officials.

While the President has been very solicitous of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan even as Erdogan drags Turkey farther and farther into autocracy, he also warned the Turks against escalating against the US led coalition in Syria. The Turks have disputed the US account of this conversation.

U.S. President Donald Trump urged Turkey on Wednesday to curtail its military operation in Syria and warned it not to bring U.S. and Turkish forces into conflict, but a Turkish source said a White House readout did not accurately reflect the conversation.

“He urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties,” a White House statement said. “He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces.”

However, a Turkish source said the White House statement did not accurately reflect the content of their phone call.

“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns about escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin,” the source said, referring to one comment in the White House summary of their conversation.

 “The two leaders’ discussion of Operation Olive Branch was limited to an exchange of views,” the source said.
Right now there are a lot of moving pieces in Syria. All of them are rubbing against each other in a confined (battle) space. And the alliances don’t really line up with how the President seems to see the world. He’s favorably inclined to Putin and Erdogan. Yet the former is allied with the Syrians, Iranians, and Hezbullah and the latter’s actions have the potential to pit NATO allies against each other. Since there is no clearly delineated US policy, or rather policy change, to what the US is trying to achieve in the Syrian part of the Levantine theater from the past administration to the current one, it is unclear what the President really wants to do. How deep he wants the US and the US led coalition involved in the Syrian Civil War. And just what end state he envisions as a result of the US’s actions in this highly complex theater of operations.

Stay frosty!

Open thread!

105 replies
  1. 1
    Yutsano says:

    I guess we wait to see who is Archduke Ferdinand here.

  2. 2
    Mike in DC says:

    Looks like the question is, which heats up faster–our tensions with Turkey, or our tensions with Russia?

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Corner Stone says:

    Do we (the US) actually have *any* partners in the region?

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: Yes, the various Kurdish militia. The Iraqi Army. Technically the Israelis. They’re supposed to be a US client, but are in dire need of being reminded of that reality.

  6. 6
    Adam L Silverman says:

    I’ve got to run to the store. I’ll be back in about 45 minutes. Try not to start any new land wars in Asia while I’m gone.

  7. 7

    @Corner Stone: After we elected T, allies are rethinking their alliances. Nothing and no one is inevitable.

  8. 8
    Corner Stone says:

    @Adam L Silverman: ISTM, and pace WTFDIK, that Israel seems to prefer a direct confrontation scenario, sooner rather than later.
    I didn’t think the Iraqi Army could find a matching pair of boots from one day to the next, much less provide logistical or holding action support anywhere outside of about 25 miles of Baghdad.

  9. 9
    gene108 says:

    Finally, it is unclear what the official US response will be.

    Whatever Putin tells Trump to do.

  10. 10
    RIc Drywall says:

    The evolution of Conservative talking points:

    Stage 1: “Trump solved the Syrian problem.”
    Stage 2: “OK, it’s a mess, but not our mess.”
    Stage 3: “We’re sending our troops in to kick everyone’s ass.”
    Stage 4: “Trump got bad advice from the Deep State.”
    Stage 5: “Trump was never really a Conservative or Republican.”

  11. 11
    p.a. says:

    Imagine the biggest shitpile snafu result of this you can. With trump & admin, take the over.

  12. 12

    Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya…

    Slightly more seriously: this is why you don’t elect corrupt morons to a role that includes CiC responsibilities. Thanks GOP, MSM, FBI!

  13. 13
    eemom says:

    I think the Greek tweet says “The time has come to break trump along with Erdogan.” Sounds like a plan.

  14. 14
    Lapassionara says:

    I don’t think any country would believe any promise Trump made now, and I would not want to ask him to weigh in on any military decisions, as he would need to swing the biggest stick he could be offered.

    What a complete and horrible mess.

  15. 15
    dmsilev says:

    Events have begun to spin out of control in Syria.

    Because everything was calm and contained until this past week?

  16. 16
    Corner Stone says:

    @p.a.: “Shall we play a game?”

  17. 17
    Baud says:

    But if correct there is a Russian retaliation towards the USA coming very soon.

    An even bigger Russian Puppet in the White House?

  18. 18
    Corner Stone says:

    This fucking FIN v USA women’s hockey match is exhausting.

  19. 19
    david says:

    Ah, the Olympics. That quadrennial reminder that the biathlon is still a thing. :-)

  20. 20
    Corner Stone says:

    Maybe it’s more appropriate than we know that Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies is currently airing on TNT?

  21. 21
    Geeno says:

    @eemom: That was my read of it as well. It does seem to be about that time, but we’d have to eject Turkey or ourselves from NATO to make that happen.

  22. 22
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @Geeno:
    Turkey, at this point, should be ejected from NATO. Isn’t being a democracy with and free and fair elections a requirement for NATO membership?

  23. 23
    raven says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷: Not sure these all are?

    At present, NATO has 29 members. In 1949, there were 12 founding members of the Alliance: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The other member countries are: Greece and Turkey (1952), Germany (1955), Spain (1982), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009), and Montenegro (2017).

  24. 24

    @dmsilev:

    Because everything was calm and contained until this past week?

    Relatively so.

  25. 25
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @raven:
    Hungary certainly isn’t and Poland is on the edge. Don’t know about the more recent ones, tbh.

  26. 26
    Feebog says:

    The acronym for this situation is FUBAR. No good options, and we can be assured our Moran-in-Chief will choose the worse possible choice.

  27. 27
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Sorry Adam but the US is actually Israel’s client and has been for years. Classic case of tail wagging dog.

  28. 28
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: The coalition did a much better job with the Iraqi military this time around then we did prior to 2010. A lot of that was actually on the Iraqi side.

  29. 29
    Sherparick says:

    I doubt that this will end well.

    Meanwhile the deportation machine is cranking up, and apparently no one cares as Steve M. points out at No More Mister Nice Blog no one apparently cares as tens of thousands of humans beings are being deported and their families broken up and apparently no one is interested. http://nomoremister.blogspot.c.....-beta.html

    Write your congressman or call, Republican and Democrat, and complain that good people are being kicked out of this country and losing their freedom for no good reason. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/opinion/sunday/syed-jamal-ice-deportation.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

  30. 30
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Sloane Ranger: I was not aware. Thank you for enlightening me.

  31. 31

    The information here is fascinating, but very far from the truth. ;)

  32. 32
    James E. Powell says:

    @RIc Drywall:

    You left out the one where it’s Obama’s fault

  33. 33
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lapassionara: His stick ain’t that big.

  34. 34
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @eemom: @Geeno: Thanks for catching that. I don’t read/speak Greek (having enough trouble with English these days…). I just wanted the video, so I’ve switched it out with a Youtube of just the CNN spot/interview with LTG Funk.

  35. 35
    Mart says:

    Duck, Duck, Goose – Syria edition – A group of armies circle Syria, facing inward. One army, who is “it”, flies around bombing and shooting each Army in turn; calling each an “enemy combatant” until finally calling one a “terrorist”. The terrorist army then rises and tries to blow up the “it” army, while the “it” army tries to return to the bombed out land where the terrorist army had been. If the “it” army succeeds, the terrorist army becomes the “it” army and the fighting and name calling begins again. If the terrorist army takes out the “it” army, the terrorist army may return to their previous spot and the original “it” army restarts the fighting and name calling process.

  36. 36
    Another Scott says:

    Thanks for this thread. I was wondering what you thought about it. I agree that there’s the potential for the Syria/Turkey/Iran/Israel/Russia smoothie to get very, very complicated (and dangerous) quickly.

    I’m curious, though, about your comments on the “National Command Authority” aspects. Isn’t that a “non-operative” concept under Donnie? Trump gave the military ‘total authorization’ to do what they want with the MOAB.

    In December, Mattis graciously decided that he should tell us how many US troops were in Syria and Iraq. Mattis, not Donnie.

    Trump doesn’t know what’s going on, and doesn’t care. He is letting the Pentagon do what they want in Syria. I’m sure the JCS and Mattis are trying to keep him informed, and figure out what he wants done, but Trump is not directing the course of the US participation in the conflict.

    At least I’ve seen no evidence that he is. Am I missing something?

    Are you perhaps letting the “hope vs. experience” balance swing too strongly toward the hope direction right now when it comes to the US Command Authority? :-(

    Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chris Carson: Then please enlighten me. I’d love to know what the truth of the matter is.

  39. 39
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @Adam L Silverman: My sarcasm detector has gone into overdrive! But what Israel wants, Israel gets. AIPAC and the religious right make sure of that.

    In practical terms that makes Israel dominent.

  40. 40
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Another Scott: Regardless of pushing more authority for determining when and what to strike down to the commanders in the field, those commanders do not set the US policy or strategy. What they do is take the US policy and strategy and translate it into a theater strategy, which then drives the operations within the theater.

  41. 41
    Corner Stone says:

    @Chris Carson: I am sure I’m going to regret this…what do you mean, exactly?

  42. 42
    Mike in DC says:

    @Adam L Silverman: There are Arab fighters in the SDF, though the Kurds are dominant. If we ever seriously decided upon regime change in Syria, the SDF would be a key player.

  43. 43
    cmorenc says:

    Events have begun to spin out of control in Syria.

    As contrasted with some recent time when events were “in control”? Geez, if this is only the start of the degradation, think how bad it’s going to be when we reach the “shit hit the fan” stage.

  44. 44
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Sloane Ranger: Hence my statement about them needing to be reminded who is ensuring whose survival.

  45. 45
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: He’s a highly opinionated, but light on the facts troll regarding the Middle East. I just did a keyword search using his email. He’s been pulling this crap on websites that deal with these issues since at least 2007.

  46. 46
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mike in DC: Yep.

  47. 47
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @cmorenc: I was expecting/anticipating this type of mess back in 2013 in some of the formal reports I did on the Syrian Civil War for the ARCENT Commander’s Military Engagement Team, the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, and CENTCOM’s Command Group.

  48. 48
    Baud says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    That information is fascinating, but very far from the truth. ;)

  49. 49
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: I’m sure.

  50. 50
    raven says:

    @Feebog:

    The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down
    You can’t let go and you can’t hold on
    You can’t go back and you can’t stand still
    If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will…

  51. 51

    @James E. Powell:

    You left out the one where it’s Obama’s fault

    Of course they will blame Obama, they’ve already said he didn’t engage in Syria soon enough.

  52. 52
    Mary G says:

    So, Adam, I used to follow @20committee on Twitter, but now he is charging $10 a month, which usually means a scam, so I unfollowed, though I used to read his stuff on the Observer. Other people are now charging him with being a Kremlin stooge. Your thoughts? I won’t pay, but I might return to the public stuff.

    Those white helmet videos are heartbreaking, although they sometimes seem a bit staged.

    The rule I have observed is that whoever is ahead, the Kurds will end up screwed blue.

  53. 53
    Mike J says:

    Every F-16 that gets shot down is a new sales opportunity.

  54. 54
    zhena gogolia says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    The Tom Nichols position.

  55. 55
    glory b says:

    @Baud: Revolving tag time?

  56. 56
    B.B.A. says:

    @RIc Drywall: “It’s Hillary’s fault for starting the war in the first place.”

    (Every single word of that is wrong, but it’s already the standard conservative narrative about Libya. And Syria is just a few letters off.)

  57. 57
    Ken B says:

    @Adam L Silverman: So do a lot of people in the US.

  58. 58

    @zhena gogolia: … and Joe Scar, and Zbig(when he was still with us)…

  59. 59

    @glory b: Anytime is revolving tag time here at Balloon Juice.

  60. 60
    John Fremont says:

    @Mike J: For an F35!

  61. 61
    debbie says:

    @Yutsano:

    It seems to me Ferdinand was pretty clueless, so I’ll say Trump is the new Ferdinand.

  62. 62
    Another Scott says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I guess we’ll see.

    Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  63. 63
    zhena gogolia says:

    @glory b:

    Yeah! Has to include the wink, though.

  64. 64
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    Anytime is revolving tag time

    That should be a revolving tag

  65. 65
    Corner Stone says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    The Tom Nichols position.

    Isn’t that the “expert” that does not believe climate change science?

  66. 66
    Corner Stone says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Hmmm. It seemed like he had you pretty much nailed with his exhaustive rebuttal. I guess we’ll never know.

  67. 67
    Barry says:

    @dmsilev: “Because everything was calm and contained until this past week?”

    Compared to now?

  68. 68
    GregB says:

    This clusterfuck needs The A Team at the rudder and instead we are running with a half staffed F-Troop.

    Trump and Tillerson plan to send Archduke Ferdinand to the region to calm things down.

  69. 69
    Corner Stone says:

    @GregB:

    This clusterfuck needs The A Team at the rudder

    You want someone who is trying to fly a tank?

  70. 70
    Another Scott says:

    @GregB: Hey, the guys in F-Troop may have had their problems, but they weren’t conspiring with their adversaries…! I don’t think, anyway. It’s been a long, long time since I saw any episodes.

    In other news, VoteRiders is getting some visibility on NBC (via Cole’s Twitter feed). Yay! If we want a sensible policy in Syria, we need sensible people there – that means flipping as many seats as possible in November. And that means maximizing the vote.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  71. 71
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: He’s not a Kremlin stooge. I’ve never met him. My impression is he reps his former employer, which is also my impression for McMullin. I read his stuff at the Observer, which I find interesting. You’ll notice that all these folks eventually wind up fighting with each other on social media. Usually it is over petty stuff – who was or wasn’t an officer, who worked for whom in the intel world, who called out that Russia had attacked the US first, who has or doesn’t have a connection to the Menscheviks and their fantasies.

    There’s a lot of ego involved in this stuff. Which is a shame because a lot of these folks have important information to share, but they get themselves all tied up into knots and fight about silly stuff.

    For the record: I was one of the first people to publicly state, and I did it here, that Russia was attacking the US with the purpose of throwing the election. Now please send me $10 a month. Also, I’ll need you all to arrange a contract for me with at least one cable news network and one major publication. Thanks!!!

  72. 72
    Mandalay says:

    the US is being sucked deeper into the mess that is the Syrian Civil War

    This strongly implies that the US has no control over its situation in Syria, but that is simply not the case.

    This is what Rex Tillerson said last month:

    But let us be clear: the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge.

    One can agree or disagree with that policy, and believe or not believe that pretext/justification, but either way lets not claim that the US is being “sucked deeper” as though it has no control over its own fate.

    It’s blindingly obvious that the US (through the Trump Administration) FREELY CHOOSES to be part of the war in Syria.

  73. 73
  74. 74
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I’ll need you all to arrange a contract for me with at least one cable news network and one major publication. Thanks!!!

    I’m very close with the folks at the Intercept. You’re welcome!

  75. 75
    Mary G says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I’ll be happy to match what Cole pays you.

    So, now that the sequester is a thing of the past, will one of your projects finally get founded?

  76. 76
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @zhena gogolia: They forget that the GOP majority in the House and minority (at the time) in the Senate made it clear that they expected him to do something, but wouldn’t actually authorize doing anything. This way they could attack him coming and going.

    That said, without committing the US full scale to intervene in the Syrian Civil War, there were no good limited options. It is still not completely clear who actually used the chemical weapons back in 2013. And simply doing a pop in the nose type of strike is never going to be effective given the type of problem set that is the Syrian Civil War. So you really only have two options: all in intervention or attempting to shore up the region and work with regional partners to make sure they have the resilience to withstand an influx of refugees and an increase in terrorist attacks. Anything in between those two really wasn’t going to do much good. And it still won’t.

  77. 77
    GregB says:

    Also beyond the immediate Syrian theater, there is the cock-up in Yemen with another rich, untested, young dictator in Saudi Arabia wanting to play with the big boys.

    Not to mention things between India and Pakistan.

    I just hope the Grand Marshall of the Supreme Court steps into the breach and makes the world safe soon.

  78. 78
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Another Scott: We’ll see what? 3 star general officers in charge of combat operations in a theater of war do not set US policy or strategy. They may make inputs that filter up, but no matter how much you loosen the rules of engagement, that doesn’t change reality. US national policy and strategy is made in the executive branch with oversight by the legislative branch. Not by a corps commander.

  79. 79
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: They’re not my projects. I have an application in for a billet I’d really like. I have been asked about the possibility of going to work on a project, but that seems to be a slow burn that may or may not happen. I’ve got an app in for a contract gig I could do in my sleep. And I’ve got to get a hold of my boss and see what the company has going in regard to contracts now that the government is going to be funded for the next 18 months to 2 years. But none of them are guaranteed.

  80. 80
    thalarctosMaritimus says:

    @eemom: could I get the link, please? Thanks!

  81. 81
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @GregB: Can you hear them? The Eagles of Justice. They’re coming!!!

  82. 82

    @GregB:

    Not to mention things between India and Pakistan.

  83. 83
    Arclite says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Hey Adam, the embedded youtube of the helicopter shoot down is from 2016 when the PKK shot down a Turkish AH1 Cobra gunship.

    Last week, though, the Turks lost a T129.

  84. 84
    MomSense says:

    This might be a good time for a humor break.

    kimmel sky’s kids about trump

  85. 85
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Arclite: Thanks. I’ll change it out right now.

  86. 86
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Arclite: All fixed.

  87. 87
    Another Scott says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I don’t want to fight with you (at least not tonight ;-). Maybe we’re talking past each other. In reality, if US troops are expanding the war in Syria, it doesn’t really matter what some policy paper filed in the basement of the Pentagon says.

    It seems clear to me that Trump has transferred much of the “National Command Authority” that was previously held by the CIC and the top brass at the Pentagon down to much lower-level commanders. Like the MOAB use decisions; like setting and announcing troop levels in the various theaters (as my previous links indicated). I think those are more than tactical decisions, myself.

    Of course ultimate authority is still with Trump. He still has the responsibility under our system. But I have no confidence that someone who refuses to read anything in the PDBs unless they have PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP in bold in every paragraph or on every figure has any actual conception of what’s going on there or what our national interests are. For all we know, US policy and tactics in Syria are set by some 30-something graduate of Liberty University with a BA in Religion who doesn’t have a security clearance because he’s been consulting with Gazprom and is a wife beater…. :-/

    Norms and chains of command and all the rest are clear about what should happen when it comes to setting and executing policy in Syria. Maybe that’s still happening with the folks you’ve worked with. Things in the press about how Donnie is pushing authority down to commanders, how Donnie doesn’t have sensible people in place in positions of authority, how Donnie continues to not care about anything except personal enrichment and expanding his power to enrich himself and his family – at the expense of 70+ years of blood and treasure our parents and grandparents spent to make the USA and the world a (mostly) better place, makes me very nervous.

    That’s before we consider what Mattis said about the attack on the forces that attacked the US allies in Syria: “It was self-defense. Obviously, we are not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war.” While at the same time Tillerson’s State Department is saying that we’re still trying to dictate terms on Assad’s future:

    […]

    With US forces holding the purse strings and oil fields in Syria, the US intends to make Syria an international pariah state much like North Korea.

    “The US has provided nearly 7.5 billion in humanitarian assistance” to Syria since the beginning of the war, Statterfield said.

    But “unlike in Iraq, we do not have a trusted government partner to work with” in Syria, he said. “We are not working with, and we will not work with the Assad regime.”

    Much of Syria has been reduced to rubble, as Russia and Syria have bombed the country’s western coastline to kill rebels and the US has combed through the eastern stretches to knock out ISIS. Air forces often target roads, bridges, and important infrastructure to hobble the flow of enemy fighters on the ground.

    While Russia has the planes and bombs to continue airstrikes, Statterfield said the US is willing to bet it doesn’t have the cash to rebuild it by itself.

    Furthermore, Russia committed to a political solution to the Syrian civil war in November. Statterfield characterized Russia as trying to steer the solution towards leaving Assad in power. With a concerted effort led by the US at the UN, he said, the international community can deny Syria’s government the funding it would need to remain.

    Under the US plan, Syria won’t see a dime of reconstruction money until they put together a fair election. Assad, who has never faced a real opponent in a fair election, and who has spent the last five or so years reportedly gassing his own people with airstrikes, is unlikely to win such an election, according to Statterfield.

    Statterfield was realistic and admitted the process would be extremely difficult, noting “Assad will cling to power at almost any cost.”

    The other prong of US strategy in Syria, limiting Iran’s influence, will be dealt with separately, according to Statterfield.

    But the US has now outlined a credible strategy to undermine Russia and Iran’s wish to keep Assad, who experts say drives radicalization and terrorism with his brutal military campaign against rebels, in power.

    […]

    Yeah. And I’m sure that outline will come to pass. (groucho-roll-eyes.gif)

    The US holding Syrian oil fields isn’t getting involved in the Syrian civil war? Really? The US attacking Assad’s forces isn’t getting involved in the Syrian civil war? Really?

    The US policy toward DPRK should be emulated in Syria? Really?

    Assad will continue to fight to the death to maintain power. Putin will not let him fail. Those are the clear bottom lines now, and it’s been clear since September 2015. The US policy from the “National Command Authority” under Trump is schizophrenic and suffers from too many conflicting statements because Trump doesn’t care about anything except “winning” (as he defines it). And it’s not clear how much the NCA has actual control of the actual actions on the ground – since Donnie said he pretty much gave them carte blanche.

    I do not have confidence that the situation in Syria will not get much worse because commanders on the ground are trying to succeed in their particular missions (which can change day to day), and have the authority to do things that previously required much higher levels of approval than now – things that risk expanding the conflict (like, say, bombing Syrian/Iranian/Russian forces), while Trump and Tillerson cannot set, articulate, and defend a sensible policy that supports the US’s interests there.

    Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. We’ll see.

    My $0.02. I hope this explains better where I’m coming from.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

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    Arclite says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Sweet.

    Man, that guy filming out in the open has some balls given that there’s another gunship cruising around pissed off that their wingman just bought the farm. It’ll be interesting to see how effective MANPADS are after DIRCM becomes commonplace on military helicopters.

  89. 89
    Arclite says:

    Also, you’ve probably heard, but Egypt just launched a massive security effort in the Sinai to root out ISIS. The whole region is heating up in a crazy way.

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    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Another Scott: You have a nomenclature problem. Decisions on when to target, what to target, and what to use to target are not policy or strategy. They’re not even theater strategy. The former two are Rules of Engagement issues. The latter is a resourcing issue for the immediate tactical objective. The reason I’m disagreeing with you is you’ve conflated two very different things: setting overall US ends (policy), ways, and means (strategy to achieve stated policy) with who gets to decide what to engage, when, and how. They’re not the same thing. That’s the only thing I’m objecting to in what you’re saying.

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    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Arclite: Yep, the guys that film these things are nuts.

    And the countermeasures and their effects will be interesting to see as they come on line.

  92. 92
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Arclite: I’m tracking it. Freed of defending actual territory (the caliphate), we’re going to see ISIS metastasize into something even nastier.

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    Another Scott says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Ok, thanks.

    But, … VOA News:

    U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, criticized the U.S. strikes.

    “While I am grateful that no U.S. or coalition members were harmed in the attack, I am gravely concerned that the Trump administration is purposefully stumbling into a broader conflict, without a vote of Congress or clear objectives,” Kaine said.

    I share the same concerns, purposefully or not.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  94. 94
    WaterGirl says:

    @Another Scott: I think Tim Kaine is highly underrated.

    You guys have concerns; I’ll be a bit more blunt – it scares the shit out of me. When I was young, maybe 5 or 6 or 7, I thought it would be so awesome to be in a flood. You could swim everywhere! The water I pictured was perfectly clean. It would be so much fun!

    That is the same level of mentality that Trump brings to things. He has no fucking clue what he is wishing for and doesn’t have the slightest inkling that reality would be nothing like the picture in his childish little brain.

  95. 95
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Another Scott: The problem is that LTG Funk, MG Jarrard (the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force/CJSOTF Commander), my former boss MG White (Commander 1st Armored Division and the Combined Joint Force Land Component Commander/CJFLCC) don’t have the resources to broaden the fight. The reason MG White is the CJFLCC is we only have three US Army Corps. Up until a few years ago the CJFLCC was always a 3 star command. That’s not to knock my former boss. He’s an excellent commander and is very good at what he does and I’m not concerned at all that he’s the CJFLCC. If he contacted me tomorrow saying he needed me over there, I’d be on my way ASAP. But we had to change how we operate and who commands what and at what level because we’ve got too few resources.

    We are also, by GEN Thompson’s public testimony before Congress last year, stretched to breaking on the Special Operations side. We just don’t have the resources.

  96. 96
    Arclite says:

    “This business will get out of control, and we’ll be lucky to live through it.” Great movie, but it sucks that that line is currently apropos.

    Man, I really hope that the US didn’t obliterate a bunch of Russian mercs, even if they were dumb enough to try and overrun a YPG HQ where US SOF were stationed. Americans killing Russians has explosive potential. Still, you really have to wonder WTF they were thinking.

  97. 97
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Another Scott: Adam’s talking process as he knows it.

    The problem here is that the process is fucked up right now with little or no direction from the NCA.

  98. 98
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Exactly. To both your points.

  99. 99
    Corner Stone says:

    @Arclite:

    Man, I really hope that the US didn’t obliterate a bunch of Russian mercs

    Seems like a reasonable outcome, IMO.

  100. 100
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Arclite: Assume it happened; when should US troops not defend themselves?

  101. 101
    Suffragette City says:

    Looking up that Petri person on twitter led me to the spy station then to a short BBC podcast on spy number stations..and then I had to google Wagner. All these things most of us are unaware of. Oh yeah and the stuff going on with the Finns. What a rabbit hole..I could spend hours trying to figure some of this out and not get there. Which means I neglect the podcasts on medieval queens.
    Choices !!!

  102. 102
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Suffragette City: Meh… Do what you want.

  103. 103
    Brachiator says:

    @Adam L Silverman: A BBC Newshour story suggests that Russia has a hot line to various countries in the region, including Israel, and that Israel kept Russia informed with respect to its attacks. The implication is that communication channels kept Iran informed about the limited force nature of the attacks.

    All in all, the story suggests that Russia has consolidated its position as the major player in the region, supplanting the US.

  104. 104
    Another Scott says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Reagan had the sense to bug out of Beirut. When will we decide to bug out of Syria, and after what event? Someone should be thinking about that question and answer, because the day is surely coming (it’s foolish to think that it isn’t)…

    Cheers,
    Scott.

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