Russia, Iran & Turkey Axis


John R. Houk

© October 18, 2017

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has put together a map showing how the Russian military is targeting civilians in Putin’s effort to support Iranian client dictator Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in Syria.

 

Take notice of the regimes in full military cooperation to keep al-Assad in power: Russia, Iran and incredulously NATO-member Turkey.

 

Russia officially may not be a Communist nation, but an old Communist former-Soviet Union KGB officer runs Russia in Vladimir Putin. Ever since the October 1917 Lenin led Communist revolution overthrew and assassinated the Russian Czar and the entire royal family, Russia has been no friend of the USA.

 

Iran ceased being an American friend after crazy Khomeini kicked out the Shah, killing royal loyalists, killing fellow anti-Shah revolutionaries, including Western-minded Iranian civilians, and allow Khomeini activists to overrun the U.S. Embassy in Tehran holding American Embassy staff under torturous conditions for 444 days.

 

Turkey became an essential Cold War ally of the U.S. because the Communist Soviet Union was an actual threat to the Turkish Republic. Hence, Turkey became a member of NATO in Europe’s goal to be protected from Russian Communist imperialism which at the time made Eastern Europe Communist vassals. What changed with Turkey?

 

One – Russia became less a Communist global exporter and more a nationalist power broker. Two – Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership, has experienced a revival of Islamic originalism. Meaning Turkey is on a path to be a Sunni radical Islamic propagator as much as Iran is a radical Shia Islamic propagator. The only redeeming factor Turkey-Iran is eventually the age-old Sunni-Shia rivalry will eventually click in. Until Sunni-Shia mutual hatred diverts Turkey and Iran, Russia, Iran and Turkey have one mutual interest of taking down American power. Eventually all three will turn on each other, but until then American National Interests will face a tough road of uneasy speculative choices.

 

JRH 10/18/17

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*This e-mail is being resent with the corrected title and dates in the banner. We apologize for any inconvenience.

 

Russia Renews Targeting Civilians

[Info pertains to these dates: August 14 – October 7, 2017]

 

By Matti Suomenaro and the ISW Syria and Turkey Teams

Sent 10/17/2017 8:40 AM

Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Email sent from: press@understandingwar.org

 

Russia renewed its violent, indiscriminate air campaign against civilians in Western Syria in order to coerce groups opposed to the Bashar al-Assad regime to accept a ceasefire or ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib Province. Russia shifted its air campaign to target rebel-held terrain in Idlib and Hama Provinces following an offensive launched by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – the successor of Syrian al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – in Northern Hama Province on September 19. The Russian Ministry of Defense launched an immediate disinformation operation to present this shift in its air campaign as a legitimate series of strikes against extremist groups attempting to disrupt a ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib Province brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran on September 15. Russia nonetheless mounted a systematic campaign of airstrikes against civilian infrastructure – including hospitals, schools, power stations, and mosques – as well as former U.S.-backed rebel groups unaffiliated with HTS or al Qaeda. The strikes marked a return to the widespread punitive air campaigns Russia previously directed against opposition-held terrain across Western Syria. Russia also employed advanced weapons systems to further inflict violence against Idlib Province under the guise of counter-terrorism operations. The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Permanent Mediterranean Task Force launched Kalibr cruise missiles targeting Ma’arat al-Numan in Southern Idlib Province on September 22. Russia Tu-95MS ‘Bear’ strategic bombers later launched Kh-101 cruise missiles targeting the outskirts of Idlib City on September 26. Russia’s deliberate use of violence against civilians precludes any legitimate, Russian-enforced ‘de-escalation’ zone in Idlib Province.

 

Russia also leveraged its ongoing air campaign to co-opt Turkey away from the U.S. and NATO in order to further set conditions for the planned ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib. Russia concentrated its airstrikes in areas of Western Idlib Province along the Syrian-Turkish Border from September 25 – 30. The Russian Air Force likely sought to interdict the movement of HTS and opposition forces ahead of a Turkish Armed Force (TSK) deployment into Idlib by targeting rebel-held areas connecting Western Aleppo Province to the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing on the Syrian-Turkish Border as well as key supply routes around Idlib City. Turkish President Recep Erdogan subsequently announced the start of cross-border operations to implement the Idlib ‘de-escalation zone’ on October 7. Erdogan stated that Russia would support his intervention. The TSK began deployments to observation positions in Northern Idlib Province near the majority-Kurdish Afrin Canton on October 12 following earlier reconnaissance missions. Russia likely perceives an opportunity to exploit widening diplomatic fissures between the U.S. and Turkey. Russia could thus attempt to use the ‘de-escalation zone’ to compel Turkey into deeper – albeit temporary – cooperation with Russia in Northwestern Syria at the expense of the United States.

 

The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, statements by Russian and Western officials, and documentation of Russian airstrikes through social media. This map represents locations targeted by Russia’s air campaign, rather than the number of individual strikes or sorties. The graphic likely under-represents the extent of the locations targeted in Eastern Syria, owing to a relative lack of activist reporting from that region.

High-Confidence Reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated by documentation from opposition factions and activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible that demonstrate a number of key indicators of Russian airstrikes.

Low-Confidence Reporting. ISW places low confidence in reports corroborated only by multiple secondary sources, including from local Syrian activist networks deemed credible or Syrian state-run media.

 

ISW – Russian Airstrikes in Syria map- 8-14 to 9-14-17

 

[Blog Editor: The following posted on email but not webpage]

 

The preceding graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, statements by Russian and Western officials, and documentation of Russian airstrikes through social media. This map represents locations targeted by Russia’s air campaign, rather than the number of individual strikes or sorties. The graphic likely under-represents the extent of the locations targeted in Eastern Syria, owing to a relative lack of activist reporting from that region.

 

Visit our websites — www.understandingwar.org and http://iswresearch.blogspot.com  — and follow us on Twitter (@TheStudyofWar).

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Russia, Iran & Turkey Axis

John R. Houk

© October 18, 2017

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Russia Renews Targeting Civilians

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. Visit us at www.understandingwar.org.

 

The Institute for the Study of War, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 515, Washington, DC 20036

 

ISW Who We Are Page

 

We are on the front lines of military thinking.

 

Our Mission

 

The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.

 

We believe ground realities must drive the formulation of strategy and policy. In pursuit of this principle, ISW conducts detailed, open-source intelligence analysis to provide the most accurate information on current conflicts and security threats. ISW researchers spend time in conflict zones conducting independent assessments and enhancing their understanding of realities on the ground. Through reports and timely events, our research educates military and civilian leaders, reporters, and the public to enhance the quality of policy debates.

 

PUTIN’S REAL SYRIA AGENDA


While Dems are crying about the unproven collusion between President Trump and the Russians to win Election-2016 AND ignoring Dem collusion with the Russians (which is better documented), Russia is quietly changing the balance of power in the Middle East by colluding with Iran for geopolitical regional power.

The Dems are either saps or more than willing to stealthily cooperate with the former Soviet Union whose President is a former uber-spy Vladimir Putin.

 

JRH 3/20/17

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PUTIN’S REAL SYRIA AGENDA [Summary/Intro]

 

By Genevieve Casagrande

Mar 20, 2017

Institute for the Study of War [ISW]

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s primary objective in Syria is to constrain U.S. freedom of action – not fight ISIS and al Qaeda. Russia’s military deployments at current levels will not enable the Iranian-penetrated Assad regime to secure Syria. Moscow’s deepening footprint in Syria threatens America’s ability to defend its interests across the Middle East and in the Mediterranean Sea. The next U.S. step in Syria must help regain leverage over Russia rather than further encourage Putin’s expansionism.

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) produced this report with the Critical Threats Project (CTP). The insights are part of an intensive multi-month exercise to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Syria. The ISW-CTP team recently released “America’s Way Ahead in Syria,” which details the flaws in the current U.S. approach in Iraq and Syria and proposes the first phase of a strategic reset in the Middle East.

 

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Putin’s Real Syria Agenda

By Genevieve Casagrande and Kathleen Weinberger

March 2017

ISW – PDF

 

Russia’s intervention in Syria in September 2015 fundamentally altered the balance of the Syrian Civil War.1 Russia re-established momentum behind Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his Iranian allies at a moment when major victories by ISIS and Syrian rebels threatened to force the regime to contract into Syria’s central corridor.2 The capabilities Russia deployed were not limited to the airframes, artillery, and personnel needed to conduct a counter-terrorism or counterinsurgency mission, however. Russia deployed advanced air defense and ballistic missile systems, naval units, air superiority aircraft, and other capabilities in a display of major Russian force projection in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin is altering the balance of power in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean through sustained Russian military operations and additional deployments of high-end capabilities.

 

Russian Force Projection

 

Russia ultimately seeks to expand its permanent naval and air bases on the Syrian coast in order to further project force into the Mediterranean and Middle East. Russia’s establishment of an anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) exclusion zone from its bases at Latakia and Tartous allows Russia to create de-facto no fly zones in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as over most of Syria. These A2/AD zones constrain U.S. freedom of movement and ultimately raise the cost of U.S. involvement in Syria.3 Russia deployed the naval version of the S-300 to protect the airspace over Latakia airbase in Syria in November 2015.4 Russia also deployed the S-400 in late November 2015 shortly after the Turkish downing of a Russian jet.5 Russia has since deployed an additional seven S-300 systems in an effort to build in redundancies, advance the integration of its air defenses, and provide more comprehensive coverage.6 The S-300 and S-400 systems are road mobile and interoperable, increasing the difficulty of neutralizing the systems. [See Appendix I]

 

Putin wants to challenge the U.S. and its allies by increasing Russian military and political influence in the Middle East. Russia has rotated a wide range of naval vessels to participate in the conflict in order to demonstrate the capabilities of these units and Russia’s willingness to deploy them in the Mediterranean. Russia has deployed some of its most advanced non-nuclear naval capabilities to the Eastern Mediterranean.7 Russian subsurface and surface vessels successfully engaged ground targets in Syria after launching Kalibr cruise missiles from the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas.8 Russia has shown it can undertake precision strikes with the nuclear-capable Kalibr cruise missile at significant distance.

 

Russia also maintains anti-ship capabilities in the Mediterranean, including the Bastion-P coastal defense system. Russia demonstrated the land attack capabilities of the Bastion in November 2016.9 Russia has also deployed battle cruisers that bring advanced anti-ship and air defense capabilities off the Syrian coast. Russia’s deployment of its much-ridiculed aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov nevertheless showcased its force projection capabilities and intent to exhibit its naval presence in the Mediterranean.10 [See Appendix II]

 

Putin has deployed air defense and anti-ship systems to Syria in order to threaten the United States. Russia does not need these systems to support the counter-terrorism campaign it claims it is waging against anti-Assad opposition groups in Syria. Those groups do not operate aircraft or naval vessels. Russia also deployed the nuclear capable SS-26 ‘Iskander’ ballistic missiles to Syria and used the systems to attack opposition held terrain.11 The Iskander missiles provide no meaningful additional advantage against the opposition. The only conceivable target for these advanced systems is the U.S. and its allies. [See Appendix III]

 

Constrain U.S. Freedom of Action

 

Russia has used its deployment to constrain U.S. freedom of action and limit American policy options in Syria. Russia deployed the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems to deter the U.S. from direct military action against the Assad regime through the unilateral establishment of a no-fly zone. Russia has also forward deployed assets beyond its air and naval bases on the coast in order to further complicate the personnel are primarily concentrated in Latakia, Aleppo, and Tartous Provinces, but are also active in Hama, Homs, Damascus, and Hasakah and include a wide range of units including air assault, tank, medical, naval infantry, and special operations forces. [See Appendix IV]

 

Russia has intentionally removed potential U.S. partners within the armed opposition from the battlefield in Syria. Russian airstrikes from October 2015 to March 2017 have primarily targeted the mainstream Syrian opposition – not ISIS – in order to ensure the opposition’s defeat through its submission, destruction, or transformation. The Russian air campaign has driven what remains of the mainstream opposition closer to Salafi-jihadi groups, which are stronger and better able to defend against intensified pro-regime military operations. Russia is also exacerbating radicalization through its deliberate, illegal targeting of civilians. Russia has consistently targeted hospitals, schools, and other critical civilian infrastructure throughout the sixteen months of its air campaign.

 

Russian Testing Grounds

 

Russia has also used sustained use of transport aircraft in Syria to exercise the Russian military’s overall combat readiness and force projection capabilities. Expeditionary logistics and force projection is difficult for militaries to exercise, in general. Russia is exercising expeditionary logistics by air and sea in Syria.13 Russia is refining its ability to deploy its military personnel and equipment rapidly at a large scale in order to message its ability to threaten the U.S. and its NATO and European allies. Russia announced its intent to prioritize the development of naval equipment for troop transport on March 8 in order to increase the Russian Navy’s ability to provide logistical support in Syria and in other coastal zones.14 Russia also re-supplies and provides combat support for prospect of direct U.S. strikes against the Syrian regime for fear of inadvertently hitting Russian troops. Sources estimated that Russia maintains between 1,500 and 4,000 military personnel in Syria.12 These forces in Syria through frequent deliveries from Russian Il-76 and An-124 transport aircraft. As of October 2016, these transport aircraft were making multiple trips to Syria each month and it is likely that these aircraft continue to make regular trips to Syria. [See Appendix V]

 

Limitations of Russian Capabilities

 

Putin faces a number of economic and military constraints that limit the resources Russia can bring to bear in Syria. Russia’s economic crisis has forced Russia to balance limited resources across key theaters like Ukraine, the Baltics, the Middle East, and domestically in Russia. Putin has opted to pursue multiple, mutually reinforcing lines of effort using a diverse set of naval, air, missile, and ground capabilities in Syria. The overlap allows Russia to extract significant benefits with minimal cost. The Russian military has demonstrated its many shortcomings during its deployment to Syria, including frequent friendly fire incidents, losses of Russian aircraft, a poor performance by Russia’s aging aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov, and reports of mechanical failure of Russian equipment.15

 

The Russian deployment, at current levels, will be insufficient to grant Assad victory over the opposition, al Qaeda, or ISIS. Russia, Iran, and the regime have been unable to sustain significant simultaneous operations against ISIS and the Syrian opposition, despite Russia’s considerable airframe deployments. Russian airframes were unable to prevent ISIS’s recapture of Palmyra in December 2016 alongside a final pro-regime push to defeat the opposition in Aleppo, for example.16 Russia has instead used ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreements to drawdown its airstrikes against the opposition and surge its air campaign against ISIS for limited periods of time.17 Salafi-Jihadi groups have meanwhile begun to consolidate the opposition under more effective command-and-control structures, increasing rebels’ capabilities and resiliency.18 This dynamic will not only lead to a protracted and bloody civil war for the foreseeable future, but it ultimately raises the requirements for the U.S. to deal with the conflict.

 

Implications

 

Russia is both an unacceptable and ineffective partner against jihadists in Syria. The Russian deployment is inconsistent with Putin’s narrative that Russia intervened in Syria in order to combat terrorists. Many of its capabilities have no utility in the anti-ISIS fight. Putin instead seeks to use Russia’s deployment to subordinate U.S. military action and policies to Russian objectives in Syria. Russia’s aggressive deployment to Syria intends to deter the U.S. from intervening for fear of incurring significant costs. Russia has largely pursued its objectives in Syria with impunity. It has deprived the U.S. of freedom of maneuver, disrupted U.S. partnerships with key allies in the region, and facilitated Russia’s emergence as a geopolitical force in the region. Any potential partnership with Russia in Syria will further strengthen jihadists and force the U.S. to capitulate to a Russian vision for the broader Middle East that endangers America’s security interests.

 

Genevieve Casagrande is a Syria Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Kathleen Weinberger is a Russia and Ukraine Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Institute for the Study of War Twitter: @TheStudyofWar Critical Threats Twitter: @criticalthreats

 

[Blog Editor: From this point forward the rest of the report are the Appendices (i.e. charts) and Notes. The last section is actually longer than the report itself. To view the Appendices and Notes go to the PDF.]

 

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©2007 – 2017 THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR

 

Who is ISW

 

We are on the front lines of military thinking.

 

Our Mission

The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.

 

Our History

Dr. Kimberly Kagan founded ISW in May 2007, as U.S. forces undertook a daring new counterinsurgency strategy to reverse the grim security situation on the ground in Iraq. Frustrated with the prevailing lack of accurate information documenting developments on the ground in Iraq and the detrimental effect of biased reporting on policymakers, Dr. Kagan established ISW to provide real-time, independent, and open-source analysis of ongoing military operations and READ THE REST

 

ISW Report Examines the Free Syrian Army


Free Syrian Army - logo in background

Intro: Free Syrian Army

John R. Houk

© April 2, 2013

 

As Americans we should be kept up to date on the civil war happening now in Syria. Syria has been ruled by the Assad family for over 40 years as a ruthless dictatorship that is supportive of Syria’s minority religion of Alawite Shia Islam.

 

Al_Assad_family portraitWhen the Arab Spring began to erupt across North Africa (Maghreb) against despotic regimes and influenced by Islamists but with secular minded Muslims in tow. The throw the dictators out syndrome reached Syria. Unfortunately for the anti-dictatorship crowd in Syria the current dictator Bashar al-Assad has aligned his regime politically and militarily with aspiring regional power Iran. Frankly I believe the Syrian civil war has lasted over a couple years because of Iranian support for the Assad Regime which has been a conduit connection with Lebanon’s Shi’ite terrorists Hezbollah.

 

Syria’s rebels are represented by the majority Sunni Muslims of which the most powerful elements are al Qaeda/Wahhabi influenced Islamists. This is significant because the Obama Administration is committed to bringing down Assad but is in the dilemma of supporting American-Jew hating Islamists to bring down Assad’s regime. Many people including me believe the secrecy being maintained by the Obama Administration has to do with Benghazigate; i.e. Islamic terrorists attacking a Consulate-like building in Benghazi killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. The scandal surrounds the capability to prevent the attack (See HERE, HERE and HERE) and the reason that Stevens was there in the first place. That reason could be something to do with sending Qaddafi captured weapons to the Syrian rebels which in all likelihood are also American-Jew-hating Islamists.

 

Below is an email introduction from Institute for the Study of War (ISW) which has a link to a summary of the Free Syrian Army.

 

JRH 4/2/13

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ISW Report Examines the Free Syrian Army

 

ISW – For Immediate Release

Contact person: Maggie Rackl

Sent: Mar 25, 2013 at 4:34 PM

 

ISW’s latest report, The Free Syrian Army, analyzes how rebel commanders on the ground in Syria have begun to coordinate tactically in order to plan operations and combine resources. This cooperation has facilitated many important offensives and rebels have taken control of the majority of the northern and eastern portions of the country. However, rebels have been unable to capitalize on these successes, and fighting has largely stalemated along current battle fronts particularly in the key areas of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.

 

In her report, ISW Senior Syria Analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy explores how rebels have attempted to overcome the fragmentation and disorganization that have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations.

 

On December 7, 2012, rebel leaders from across Syria announced the election of a new 30-member unified command structure called the Supreme Joint Military Command Council, known as the Supreme Military Command (SMC). The Supreme Military Command improves upon previous attempts at armed opposition unification through higher integration of disparate rebel groups and enhanced communication, which suggest that it could prove to be an enduring security institution. The SMC has the potential to serve as a check on radicalization and help to assert a moderate authority in Syria. If the SMC can create enough incentives for moderation it will likely be able to marginalize the most radical elements within its structure.

 

There remain a number of critical obstacles ahead for the SMC. They include the incorporation of existing command networks, which will have an impact on command and control and resource allocation; mitigating the strength of extremist groups; and managing disparate sources of financing. As the SMC develops its institutional capacity, its ability to assert greater authority will likely depend on its transactional legitimacy and its ability to distribute critical resources to rebel-held communities. Overcoming these obstacles will be difficult, especially as the nature of the conflict transforms and the sectarian polarization makes it more challenging to create a strong military institution and professional armed force.

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The Free Syrian Army

Executive Summary

 

By Elizabeth O’Bagy

Institute for the Study of War

 

Fragmentation and disorganization have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011 and began forming rebel groups under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations.

 

Since the summer of 2012, rebel commanders on the ground in Syria have begun to coordinate tactically in order to plan operations and combine resources. This cooperation has facilitated many important offensives and rebels have taken control of the majority of the eastern portion of the country, overrunning their first provincial capital in March 2013 with the capture of al-Raqqa city. However, rebels have been unable to capitalize on these successes, and fighting has largely stalemated along current battle fronts particularly in the key areas of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. 

 

In order to overcome the current military stalemate, the opposition needs to develop an operational level headquarters that can designate campaign priorities, task units to support priority missions, and resource these units with the proper equipment to execute their missions. Recently, the opposition has established a new national military structure that may grow to serve this purpose.

 

On December 7, 2012, rebel leaders from across Syria announced the election of a new 30-member unified command structure called the Supreme Joint Military Command Council, known as the Supreme Military Command (SMC). The Supreme Military Command improves upon previous attempts at armed opposition unification through higher integration of disparate rebel groups and enhanced communication, which suggest that it could prove to be an enduring security institution.

 

The SMC includes all of Syria’s most important opposition field commanders, and its authority is based on the power and influence of these rebel leaders. Its legitimacy is derived from the bottom-up, rather than top-down, and it has no institutional legitimacy apart from the legitimacy of the commanders associated with the council. Thus, the SMC is not structurally cohesive, and its ability to enforce command and control is dependent on the cooperation of each of its members.

 

The incorporation of rebel networks has resulted in chains of command that are not uniform across the five fronts, with each sub-unit retaining their own unique authority structures.

The SMC’s primary function to date has been to serve as a platform for coordination. Regardless of the limits of its current command and control, the SMC has played an important role in syncing rebel operations with several notable successes. It has allowed for greater opportunities for collaboration and coordination among the disparate rebel groups operating in Syria.

 

As the SMC develops its institutional capacity, its ability to assert greater authority will likely depend on its transactional legitimacy and its ability to distribute critical resources to rebel-held communities.

 

To date, disparate sources of funding have significantly handicapped the rebels’ ability to unite and consolidate authority on a national level. Although private sources of funding will likely continue outside the parameters of the SMC, uniting the support channels of rebels’ main state sponsors will be fundamental to ensuring the legitimacy of the new organization. The ability to provide resources and material support to its sub-units is the determining factor in whether or not the SMC will be able to unite rebel forces under its command and establish a level of command and control.

 

The SMC has the potential to serve as a check on radicalization and help to assert a moderate authority in Syria. If the SMC can create enough incentives for moderation it will likely be able to marginalize the most radical elements within its structure. To this end, the SMC has recognized the importance of the inclusion of some of the more radical forces, while still drawing a red line at the inclusion of forces that seek the destruction of a Syrian state, such as jihadist groups like Jabhat Nusra.

 

Ultimately, even if the SMC only serves as a mechanism for greater cooperation and coordination, it is a significant development in that it has united the efforts of rebel commanders across Syria. It is the first attempt at unity that incorporates important commanders from all Syrian provinces and has enough legitimacy on the ground to even begin the process of building a structure capable of providing a national-level chain of command.

 

Syria’s state security apparatus will collapse as the Assad regime finishes its transformation into a militia-like entity. The Supreme Military Command is currently the only organization that could serve to fill the security vacuum left by this transformation. As the Syrian opposition begins to build a transitional government, the SMC could create a framework for rebuilding Syria’s security and governing institutions if properly supported. The SMC’s ability to act as a basis for a national defense institution will be an important component in filling the power vacuum left by Assad’s fall and will aid in a secure and stable Syria.

 

There remain a number of critical obstacles ahead for the SMC. They include the incorporation of existing command networks, which will have an impact on command and control and resource allocation; mitigating the strength of extremist groups; and managing disparate sources of financing. Overcoming these obstacles will be difficult, especially as the nature of the conflict transforms and the sectarian polarization makes it more challenging to create a strong military institution and professional armed force. Although the SMC must do its part internally to overcome these obstacles, its success will largely depend on greater international support and access to more resources.

 

The goal behind U.S. support to the opposition should be to build a force on the ground that is committed to building a nonsectarian, stable Syria, with a government more likely to respect American interests. Working with the SMC could enhance America’s position vis-à-vis Syria’s armed opposition and provide a mechanism for stability should the Assad regime fall.

 

PDF Document:

The free Syrian army

MIDDLE EAST SECURITY REPORT 9

March 2013

_____________________

Intro: Free Syrian Army

John R. Houk

© April 2, 2013

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ISW Report Examines the Free Syrian Army

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.

 

©2007 – 2013 THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR

 

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If YOU Think Peace will Break-out in the Middle East, You’re Dreaming


Israel-Iran war map in German

John R. Houk

© August 18, 2012

 

I don’t have to be a prophet to predict that a war will explode in the Middle East soon. The Muslim nations surrounding Israel have been trying to destroy the Jewish State ever since their modern independence in 1948. For some Islamic Supremacist jealousy cannot court the concept of a sliver of land that a religion other than Islam sets the parameters for governance in the region.

 

Couple this with the old Arab League set up of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which has been legitimized by Western Powers by linking the PLO to a Western created Palestinian Authority (PA). Western reasoning for the PA is idiotically attempting to set up Israeli-Arab peace by grabbing Israeli land by forcing Israel to accept a Jew-hating sovereign Palestine to Israel’s East.  Of course there is PLO-independent Hamas to the southwest of Israel which is a tool of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and there is Iranian client terrorists Hezbollah to the north of Israel. Iran has been rattling swords against Israel for over half a decade. Egypt is becoming a Radical Muslim State as the Muslim Brotherhood tentacles spread through its government. Muslim Brotherhood Clerics have been voicing a call for unity among Muslim-Arabs for a pan-Islamic State with Jerusalem as its capital city. Syria directly north and east of Israel has been an Iranian client rattling swords against Israel ever since 1948 but they are having a problem with a civil war currently. I look to Syria to continue hostility with Israel no matter who wins that civil war. And there is Lebanon to the north which has become a client of the Shia dominated Hezbollah. Lebanon essentially has become a State within a State.

 

This report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and written by Christopher Harmer will give you an idea what an all out war in the Middle Eastern region will look like. And by all out war I mean more than the USA and any coalition of the willing trying to use Western concepts in rebuilding a nation-state.

 

This war will have the appearance initially of multiple Muslim nations and Islamic terrorists attacking tiny Israel. If America honors its treaty with Israel will enter into the fray. If America enters the fray I have little doubt that Russia and Communist China will at first join in the Muslim side because of oil. America’s NATO allies will have to join on our side because an increasingly militant Russia will be a little scary for Europe that has diverted most of its money to Socialist programs that are barely staying afloat PLUS the issue of oil will force Europe to join USA-Israel so they are not cut off by a potential Russia-China-Iran victory.

 

I might point out the allegiance of nations I am pointing out here is conditional only our Treaty allies honor the military treaty terms. It could go bad for the USA if other variables take place in which treaties are broken.

 

The first broken treaty that would make a lot of nations very pleased is if America fails to honor our military treaty with Israel. If Obama is around when this war breaks out Obama could very easily throw Israel under the bus to see if another 1948 miracle occurs with Israel surviving multiple fronts of invasion.

 

Another scenario is that various European nations break away from NATO to join the Russia-China-Iran axis for petroleum and petro-Dollars/petro-Euros with the hope of abandoning America would ease the socio-economic pain that will occur if the NATO is honored on the European side.

 

When all out war breaks out globally this time it will make the ugliness of WWII look like a picnic.

 

WWIII Imagery

 

JRH 8/18/12 (You can also read the ISW text version of “Threat and Response: Israeli Missile Defensedirectly below these thoughts at SlantRight 2.0.)

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Spillover from Syria


Kurdistan Map- Syria, Turkey, Iraq & Iran

Hmm … One really doesn’t read anything from the MSM relating to Iraq unless there is a story that arbitrarily insults the United States of America. You know though – I believe Iraq is still a nation that quite likely will split three ways when the last combat regiment leaves the region carved into a nation by the British (SA HERE) casting favors to tribal Arab allies during WWI.

 

In an instant Institute for the Study of War (ISW) email there is a news briefing about what is happening in Iraq as the American coalition of the willing downsizes its presence. Here a clue: The Syrian Civil War also includes Syrians other than Radical Muslim Sunnis that desire freedom from Shia Alawite President Bashar al-Assad.

 

JRH 8/5/12

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Will Post-America Iraq Disintegrate?


Iraq Ethnic Map 2 lg

John R. Houk

© April 14, 2011

 

The Iraq Surge was pretty much a successful military venture; however it did not wrap things up in terms of reliable stability for Iraq as a sovereign nation that roughly has a majority population of Iran sympathizing Shias, a lesser minority of Sunnis who ruled the nation for a half century and the ever disenfranchised Kurds who tend to Sunni Muslims but are viewed as second class citizens by Sunni and Shia Arabs as well as by the Shias of Iran.

 

When President G.W. Bush finally rallied enough political support both at home and with the Coalition of the Willing to depose psycho-dictator Saddam Hussein, there were brief moments of the thought to divide Iraq (SA HERE) into three regional nations to accommodate Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. I say brief because it became evident a divided Iraq would make the Iraq area an easy target for Iranian invasion especially since the Iraqi Shias are very sympathetic to the Mullah ruled Iran. Also there is the question of who controls and/or benefits from the still profitable amounts in the ground in Iraq. There is no doubt one group would invade the other group to gain access to the oil to benefit which ever tribal minded Shia, Sunni or Kurd. Not to mention that Turkey was prepared to go to war to make sure a sovereign Kurdish nation did not exist on their southern border (See this possible recent development).

 

Because of Iran hegemonic regional designs coupled with a nationalistic Islamist Turkish government dominating that still hates Kurds, when the USA leaves Iraq the thin glue that has held the current Iraq together may dissolve rapidly. This is problematic because America does have an invested interest in the prayer that Iraq stabilizes internally. The disintegration of an Iraq central government will make Iraq a target for Iran to usurp the Shia portion of Iraq.

 

Also Turkey’s Islamist government has been reaching out to Iran lately. I see a possibility of Turkey and Iran clandestinely pulling off a form of a Hitler-Stalin pact. That pact led Hitler to invade Poland from the west and Stalin’s Red Army invading Poland from the east. A Turkey-Iran pact might look like Iran’s military annexing Iraq’s Shia locations and Turkey annexing the Kurd areas of northern Iraq.

 

Since I am by far no-means a geopolitical expert (I am just a no-name blogger), check out the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) email which speculates with clarity Iraq’s situation and why it matters to American National Interests.

 

JRH 4/14/11

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ISW in Brief: An Uncertain Future for the U.S.-Iraq Partnership

 

By Ramzy Mardini

April 14, 2011

ISW Email

 

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Iraq to discuss the timetable for the U.S. military’s withdrawal, currently scheduled to conclude by the end of this year. During his three-day visit, Secretary Gates met with Iraqi leaders and communicated the United States’ willingness to extend its troop presence beyond 2011 should the Iraqis make such a request. His visit comes amidst growing concerns that a December 2011 withdrawal will leave a dangerous security vacuum in Iraq.

Secretary Gates’ visit coincides with growing Iraqi sentiment against an extended U.S. forces presence in Iraq. In stark contrast to Gates’ offer of an extension, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other members of his coalition have rejected the possibility of a continued U.S. military presence. Maliki reportedly told Gates during their meeting that his government opposes “any presence of U.S. troops or other foreign troops” and that Iraqi forces were capable of maintaining security and “countering any attack,” suggesting they were no longer in need of U.S. support. Maliki’s argument, however, contradicts statements made by senior Iraqi military officials that they will require additional U.S. assistance for years to come.

 

Yet, the strongest opposition to a continued U.S. presence comes from the firebrand Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party holds 40 seats in the 325-seat Council of Representatives, more than any individual party in Iraq. Following last year’s election, Maliki relied on Sadr’s backing in order to retain his position as prime minister. Should Maliki come to support an extension by way of a renegotiated Security Agreement, he would surely lose Sadr’s support, a move which could jeopardize his premiership. If Maliki were to lose Sadrist backing, he would have to seek alliances elsewhere. Yet, even Iraqiyya—another major parliamentary bloc—has expressed mixed views toward a sustained U.S. presence.

 

The Sadrists have also been working to rally popular sentiment in favor of U.S. withdrawal, chiefly through anti-occupation demonstrations. On April 9, just one day after Gates’ departure, tens of thousands of Sadr loyalists flooded the streets in Baghdad to mark the eighth anniversary of the ousting of Saddam, with anti-American banners and slogans demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces. During the rally, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Obaidi threatened to reinstate the Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia and escalate popular opposition in response to a sustained U.S. military presence. A recent report in al-Hayat suggests that the leaders of the Iranian-linked militant group, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, would consider rejoining the Sadrists if JAM is armed and reactivated, which would further reinforce JAM’s ability to destabilize Iraq.

 

Though an extension of the U.S. presence is a politically unattractive prospect for Iraqis, there are many unresolved issues that threaten to unravel recent security gains. Unsettled territorial disputes between Arabs and Kurds—particularly in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk—may escalate into a civil war between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces should the U.S. military presence be removed. Recent events have demonstrated the importance of a U.S. presence to mediate between the two factions. A recent incident in which the KRG deployed Peshmerga forces south of Kirkuk City, without consulting U.S. and Iraqi officials, heightened tensions and required Vice President Joe Biden to intervene to defuse the conflict. Both sides have come to the verge of armed conflict on multiple occasions, only to be deterred by the presence of U.S. forces.

 

Additionally, though extremist groups have been degraded, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) remains active, and could seek to fill the security vacuum left by a U.S. withdrawal. In one of their deadliest attacks in recent years, on March 29, 2011, AQI attacked a government building in Tikrit, killing 56 people and wounding scores more, including several provincial councilmen and the chief of police of Salah-ad-Din governorate. This incident demonstrates that AQI retains its ability to conduct high-profile attacks, prompting questions and concerns about the readiness of Iraq’s security forces.

 

Though the Iraqi military has made significant strides towards self-sufficiency, it remains unable to fill critical external defense functions, like protecting its borders and controlling its airspace. For example, Iraq’s Air Force lacks sufficient aircraft and trained pilots to defend Iraqi airspace from incursions. Moreover, reduced capabilities in logistics and intelligence also limit Iraq’s defenses. It is also likely that, following a complete U.S. withdrawal, other interested parties, such as Iran, may seek to expand their influence in the region by exploiting Iraq’s vulnerabilities.

 

All of these elements make a continued U.S.-Iraq partnership especially important post-2011; however, time is running out, and delicate diplomatic engagement will be required if any agreement is to be reached.

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Will Post-America Iraq Disintegrate?

John R. Houk

© April 14, 2011

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ISW in Brief: An Uncertain Future for the U.S.-Iraq Partnership

 

Ramzy Mardini is a Research Analyst at ISW.

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.

 

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