Friday, November 13, 2015

Major Offensive In Syria Gaining Ground, Russian Presence Increases - Deploys Missiles That Could Take Down Jets As Far Away As Tel Aviv

The Major Offensive in Syria is Gaining Steam

Throughout last week the Russian air group in Syria has been busy obliterating the positions of the Islamic state, al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and a number of other terrorist groups, while carrying out up to 65 sorties a day. The number of targets destroyed exceeds the 800 mark, including command centers, training camps, underground facilities, ammunition and explosives manufacturing facilities, pickups mounted with heavy machine guns, armored vehicles, warehouses. 

According to Western military sources, at least 7 thousand Islamists militants have been killed, including high-ranking officers. Officials confirmed the neutralization of at least three Islamist warlords by the air strikes carried out by the Syrian Air Force. Among them, the leader of a Jabhan al-Nusra branch “Saraya al-Tawhid wal-Jihad” Abu Muaz al-Sham. The deaths of 7 more prominent commanders of the terrorist groups closely affiliated with al-Qaeda were reported earlier this month. Those are Abu Ali al-Naimi and Ashraf Jamia al-Muhar (Harakat Ahrar al-Sham), Abu Muaz al-Shami (Jabhat al-Nusra), Saleh Sindh (Jaysh al-Islam)and Uqba Abu Ahmad (Livaa Umar al-Farooq).

For the first time it has been officially reported that Russia’s war planes dropped highly accurate KAB-1500L bombs. These were specifically designed to destroy underground infrastructure. Another novelty that has been employed by the Russian Defense Ministry are BETAB-500, the concrete piercing bomb. Moreover, in a number of provinces in order to support the offensive of the Syrian pro-government forces Russian is using ground attack gunships, that are operating at low altitudes and high speeds to provide close air support to the Syrian army.

In recent days, intense fighting has been reported in the majority of Syrian provinces, since jihadists are trying to launch a counter-offensive in order to preserve the momentum. Nevertheless, on November 10 Syrian troops managed to break the three-year blockade of the Kwaires airbase near Aleppo. It’s is now possible that Russia would redeploy a part of its air group there, namely helicopter gunships.

The most successful offensive for the pro-government forces was the offensive in the province of Aleppo, where Syrian troops, along with Hezbollah units and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Special Forces Brigade expanded the territory they control. They have successfully captured the city of Khan Tuman, along with the villages of Jamima, Muraimin, Hadadi, Zahra Hadid, Maraan, Hamimiya, Hamida, Hamidi, al-Mushrifah al-Sabkha. Islamist have lost the control over 500 thousand square kilometers this week alone.

In the northern part of the province of Latakia, Syrian pro-government forces, assisted by Russian helicopters have established a complete control over the city of Deir ez-Zor, while liberating the smaller villages of Jab al-Ahmar, Mafraq Beit Abu Risha, Handak al-Hamu, and Hamam. Now, a strategically important mountain region of Al-Fark is under the full control of the pro-government forces. In the province of Homs in the last week the pro-government forces continued to slowly progress in the direction of Palmyra.

In the province of Damascus fierce skirmishes were reported in the battle for the Eastern Ghouta. In the suburbs of Damascus, government troops established control over the industrial area, while capturing the former Mercedes and Peugeot factories. In Harasta government forces liberated a number of districts while being opposed by the Jaysh al-Islam terrorist group, that has a lot of Saudi militants.

Persistent face-off carried on in the Hama Governorate, which indicates that the situation remains rather grave. According to the Syrian and Iranian sources, on November 5 pro-government forces entered the town of Morek, but then, three days after the western media reported that radical militants regained control of Morek.Then, however, Syrian army troops managed to establish the full control of the city along with the highway from Aleppo to Homs.

The advancement of pro-government forces significantly affects the morale of Islamists. In just one week in the governorates of Damascus, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor a total of 300 militants surrendered to the mercy of the Syrian government.

It is clear that the Syrian army is still incapable of control the situation at all fronts and carry out large-scale offensives at the same time. American analysts are now saying that the military assistance provided by Iran and Russia has ultimately reached its limit, hence it’s unable to make any radical change in the overall dynamics of the military campaign. They are arguing that Russia can have only provide logistical and support, while the deployed units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are insufficient to give Syria an edge over Islamists.

Therefore, think-tanks in Washington are convinced that in the near future Russia and Iran will be forced to strengthen their military presence in Syria. To prove this notion Washington has provided the international media with the information that Moscow is going to build two more military bases n Syria. This, they say, will lead to the increase in the number of troop stationed in Syria, with the possibility of reaching 4 thousand soldiers. In addition, Russia is allegedly considering the use of its artillery units in the offensive launched by the Syrian army to support it. From the American point of view, Moscow and Tehran will be forced to take such step to create optimal preconditions for having an upper hand on the peace talks in Vienna. By the way, the recent talks in Vienna American analysts are labeling as an utter failure. The purpose of all this rhetorics is plain and clear – to convince the White House that the US policy in Syria has no faults, with Russia being unable to break the situation on the ground without risking of getting involved in the “second Afghanistan”. And this scenario is highly desired in the White House today, as Americans keen to see the repetition of the history with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that was partially provoked by a long war in Afghanistan.

However, the dynamics on the ground is of critical importance in the Syrian war – the “rebels” have lost the strategic initiative and now they trying to hold their positions. This situation can not be changed the arrival of new militants or the anti-tank systems. It will only delay the inevitable. The opponents of the Assad regime do not have enough fire support to launch any large-scale offensive. They can continue maneuvering with varying degrees of success, and they will fail.

In this situation it’s of critical importance for Russia not to push too far, to escape the so-called “second Afghanistan” scenario, while limiting its involvement to the air and logistical support. But it seems that it’s high time for Iran to prepare an offensive of its own, otherwise, the war on terror in Syria will be dragged for another year or more.

As for the international community, it’s high time for creating an international tribunal to prosecute ISIL and its sponsors on the basis of the existing international law.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stationed an air-defense missile system in Syria that is capable of striking aircraft as far away as Tel Aviv, according to a report published on Friday.

The S-400 air-defense system has been deployed at the Latakia airbase on the Syrian coast, according to the British Daily Mail newspaper.

The Russian-developed advanced missile system is an upgrade of the S-300 anti-aircraft system, which according to reports Moscow has recently agreed to sell to Tehran.

The S-400 missiles can reach a range of 400 km. and strike aircraft at 90,000 feet. From Latakia, the missiles could reach much of Israel, as well as the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and southern Turkey.

Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war has stepped up in recent weeks, with Moscow leading air strikes in Syria to support the regime of ally President Bashar Assad.

From Israel’s perspective, there are two emerging consequences of Russia’s aerial intervention in Syria.

The first is that Russia’s allies on the ground in Syria, who happen to be Israel’s bitter enemies, will now expand their troublesome presence near the Israeli border. 

The second consequence of Russia’s operations in Syria is that it complicates Israel’s own extensive intelligence efforts and, according to international reports, covert strike sorties over Syria.

Russian jets are now flying in Syria’s deep south, in Deraa, dropping munitions, and putting the Israel Air Force on the highest alert, despite the deconfliction mechanism created by the IDF and Russian Armed Forces in recent weeks.

No comments: