Syria

Exclusive - In Syria, a Russian move causes friction with...
It appears some Russian troops who were deployed near the Lebanese border have now been replaced by Syrian forces. This was near the town of Qusair in the Homs Region;
It appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting out of sync with President Bashar al-Assad’s Iran-backed allies in the war. Iranian and Russian support has been critical to Assad’s war effort.

“It was an uncoordinated step,” said the commander. “Now it is resolved. We rejected the step. The Syrian army - Division 11 - is deploying at the border,” said the commander, adding Hezbollah fighters were still located in the area.
Speculation is that the move by Russian forces was at Israel's behest and Iran has said that it wants to control that area:
“Perhaps it was to assure the Israelis,” said the commander, adding that the move could not be justified as part of the fight against the Nusra Front or Islamic State because Hezbollah and the Syrian army had defeated them at the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The second official said the “resistance axis” - a reference to Iran and its allies - was “studying the situation” after the uncoordinated Russian move.
 
Found this old news clipping from 2096 about an opposition gathering in London, just after Rafik Hariri's assassination.

How some things change and how some things don't!
 
Found this old news clipping from 2096 about an opposition gathering in London, just after Rafik Hariri's assassination.

How some things change and how some things don't!
Back to the future?
 
Exclusive - In Syria, a Russian move causes friction with...
It appears some Russian troops who were deployed near the Lebanese border have now been replaced by Syrian forces. This was near the town of Qusair in the Homs Region;

Speculation is that the move by Russian forces was at Israel's behest and Iran has said that it wants to control that area:
They are typical Reuters-style rumours with reference to unknown, unnamed "non-Syrian officials". This 'information' is not confirmed by any independent sources.
Why do you always quote Reuters of the World? Ah ... I have forgotten. You are being paid by Reuters.
 
They are typical Reuters-style rumours with reference to unknown, unnamed "non-Syrian officials". This 'information' is not confirmed by any independent sources.
Sure agitprop troll. Undoubtedly no Russian troops moved anywhere and there were no Iranians upset and no Syrians moved in to replace them, You also haven't seen a 'lovely plump breasted pigeon whose name is speckled Jim'.
Why do you always quote Reuters of the World? Ah ... I have forgotten. You are being paid by Reuters.
It's been mentioned before, but clearly your HOTO notes are still pants. I quote Reuters more often than not because you got upset by them when they quoted the Bellingcat MH17 report. Oh, don't forget Peskov calls them a 'reputable news source' during the Putin vote rigging allegations, but I'm sure that wasn't in your HOTO notes either.
 
Amnesty International have issued a report critical of how the US and their allies conducted themselves during their capture of Raqqa. They said the US showed little regard for the lives of civilians, caused large numbers of civilian deaths, and reduced much of the city to rubble.
Amnesty International says U.S.-led coalition destroyed Syrian city | CBC News
An international human rights group on Tuesday accused the U.S. and its allies of showing little regard for civilians' lives while attacking the Syrian city that was once the de-facto capital of ISIS, an allegation denied by the U.S. military.

Amnesty International said the U.S.-led coalition's 2017 assault on Raqqa killed hundreds of civilians and reduced sections of the city to rubble.
A spokesman for the US called the claims inaccurate, and blamed the deaths on the rebels for not not allowing the civilians to leave before the attack.
U.S. army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesperson for the coalition, called the assertions "grossly inaccurate." He said the coalition and allied Syrian forces organized safe passages for residents to flee, but Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants trapped them inside to use as human shields.

"When you have an enemy that uses non-combatants as collateral damage, it's very difficult when you fight an enemy like that to completely avoid any casualties," Ryan said.
One of the AI investigators said the US coalition should have changed their tactics to account for this. He said that if an army relies on air strikes and artillery to capture a city, then large numbers of civilian deaths will occur.
Benjamin Walsby, another investigator on the Amnesty team, said the coalition should have adjusted its strategy accordingly.

"If you rely on long-range tactics like artillery and airstrikes, then civilians are very likely to pay the price, and that appears to be what happened in Raqqa," he said.
The battle for Raqqa occurred over several months in 2017.
The battle for Raqqa, once a city of 200,000, played out over four months in 2017, with the coalition playing a supporting role as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fought street by street.

The coalition unleashed wave after wave of airstrikes and shell fire until the last of the militants left Raqqa in October 2017.
The US had fired more than 30,000 artillery shells at the city.
Command Sgt. John Wayne Troxell of the U.S. army said in January that U.S. marines had fired 30,000 artillery shells on the city.
Residents of the city complained that the bombing had been indiscriminate.
Residents complained that the coalition bombing was indiscriminate and demanded compensation.
More than two thirds of the homes in the city were destroyed.
According to the Raqqa Civil Council, which took over the administration of the city, 65 per cent of homes had been destroyed.
The US coalition acknowledged 32 civilian deaths.
In its monthly casualty reports, the coalition has acknowledged responsibility for 32 civilian deaths in Raqqa between June and October, and said it is still investigating open cases.
Amnesty International on the other hand said that civilian deaths were in the hundreds and another group put it at more than 1,400.
Amnesty International's report says hundreds of civilians were killed, while the Airwars monitoring group says it has evidence of 1,400 fatalities.
Amnesty International said that a thorough investigation could provide a case for a war crimes trial.
He said a thorough investigation could build a case for a war crimes trial.
The US said the blame for all this should be put in IS for having resisted in the first place.
"I would put the blame on ISIS for destroying the city," Ryan said. "We liberated the city of Raqqa. The city deserves better and we're going to try to provide that."
I suspect that all complaints from Raqqa residents will receive a diligent ignoring and there will be no danger of any war crimes investigation by any official body who could actually do anything.

I suspect that a thorough neutral investigation of the capture of Raqqa would show conditions similar to those faced by Syrian government forces in the recapture of urban rebel enclaves elsewhere in Syria. In those instances the rebels were well dug in with an extensive network of tunnels connecting concrete buildings. Fighting was house to house, with tanks, artillery, and air strikes being required to destroy the numerous strong points. Upon the capture of a strong point the attackers would often find that their opponents had simply evacuated through a tunnel to repeat the process at the next one. The rebels would also use civilians and other hostages as human shields.

Given the above circumstances, I would not be surprised if the civilian deaths in the capture of Raqqa were indeed in the hundreds, or even thousands. However, leaving IS in possession of Raqqa would not be acceptable from a military standpoint, and likely negotiating a surrender or safe evacuation to elsewhere of rebels from Raqqa would not be acceptable from a political standpoint.

It would however be interesting to see more details of how the fighting there proceeded and to what degree the conditions did indeed match those elsewhere in Syria. At present we seem to be seeing more information about the fighting being conducted by the Syrian government forces than we are seeing from the US and US backed forces in Syria.
 
Erdogan says 200,000 Syrians returned to Turkish-controlled areasErdogan says 200,000 Syrian refugees have returned to the Turkish controlled areas:
“As of now, around 200,000 residents from those areas returned back from Turkey,” Erdogan told an election rally in Turkey’s northwestern Black Sea province of Zonguldak. “And they continue to return. Why? Because it is their own land, we open the path, they return.”
 
Just a few photos of the Syrian armour/protection mods to T-72 and ZSU-23-4.
These T-72 (named 'Adra' or 'Mahmia' [shielded tank] once upgraded) have a professional-looking upgrade which seems to consist of slat armour standing 6" from a layer of passive, spaced armour (?) which, using the tanker's foot as a gauge, is about 9" thick. I've seen photos where the passive armour segments are empty, so they could be dropped into place when in combat, and removed at other times to save weight (?). Or they could merely have been awaiting the permanent fitting of the additional armour.
430.jpg

The same upgrade but with empty passive armour boxes. The armour would still have some effect but it seems the boxes are generally filled with something - SAA has not said what. Note thick slab of arm
our on glacis:
oflzgac4g5od4Gqyt7o-o.jpg

The ZSU has received the same treatment but with less stand off between the slat and passive armour. Much better than nothing, which is what ZSU have tended to have to put up with until now:
Syrian_army_uses_local-made_armour_cage_to_increase_protection_of_T-72_tanks_and_ZSU-23-4_640_...jpg

Lack of top cover is still an issue, particularly as the Republican Guard tanks have mainly operated in built up areas. Some tanks have been lost, possibly to attacks from above:
08c43e211ca3380c0fd91c6d406e063b.jpg

Which leads to this modification, which is unusual and seems massively to reduce the chance of a quick bail out:
CflvE-SWQAAh6f2.jpg

The Adra variant of the T-72 is reported to be able to survive hits from first generation ATGM and some models of RPG, as here where an RPG-29 hit has been absorbed by the spaced armour:
C9tQIsZXUAAURkX.jpg

Some internet sources suggest that the ball and chain skirts have not succeeded in setting off missile warheads and, on more recent Adra are replaced by slat armour.
In addition to the protection upgrades, the Republican Guard appears to be operating in urban areas with greater caution. About bloody time as they threw men and tanks away in the early years of the war.
 
Amnesty International have issued a report critical of how the US and their allies conducted themselves during their capture of Raqqa. They said the US showed little regard for the lives of civilians, caused large numbers of civilian deaths, and reduced much of the city to rubble.
Amnesty International says U.S.-led coalition destroyed Syrian city | CBC News


A spokesman for the US called the claims inaccurate, and blamed the deaths on the rebels for not not allowing the civilians to leave before the attack.


One of the AI investigators said the US coalition should have changed their tactics to account for this. He said that if an army relies on air strikes and artillery to capture a city, then large numbers of civilian deaths will occur.


The battle for Raqqa occurred over several months in 2017.


The US had fired more than 30,000 artillery shells at the city.


Residents of the city complained that the bombing had been indiscriminate.


More than two thirds of the homes in the city were destroyed.


The US coalition acknowledged 32 civilian deaths.


Amnesty International on the other hand said that civilian deaths were in the hundreds and another group put it at more than 1,400.


Amnesty International said that a thorough investigation could provide a case for a war crimes trial.


The US said the blame for all this should be put in IS for having resisted in the first place.


I suspect that all complaints from Raqqa residents will receive a diligent ignoring and there will be no danger of any war crimes investigation by any official body who could actually do anything.

I suspect that a thorough neutral investigation of the capture of Raqqa would show conditions similar to those faced by Syrian government forces in the recapture of urban rebel enclaves elsewhere in Syria. In those instances the rebels were well dug in with an extensive network of tunnels connecting concrete buildings. Fighting was house to house, with tanks, artillery, and air strikes being required to destroy the numerous strong points. Upon the capture of a strong point the attackers would often find that their opponents had simply evacuated through a tunnel to repeat the process at the next one. The rebels would also use civilians and other hostages as human shields.

Given the above circumstances, I would not be surprised if the civilian deaths in the capture of Raqqa were indeed in the hundreds, or even thousands. However, leaving IS in possession of Raqqa would not be acceptable from a military standpoint, and likely negotiating a surrender or safe evacuation to elsewhere of rebels from Raqqa would not be acceptable from a political standpoint.

It would however be interesting to see more details of how the fighting there proceeded and to what degree the conditions did indeed match those elsewhere in Syria. At present we seem to be seeing more information about the fighting being conducted by the Syrian government forces than we are seeing from the US and US backed forces in Syria.
Urban is the future, we must be prepared to accept higher non-combatant casualties in future and reinterpret or rewrite humanitarian laws to offer better legal cover...
Preparing for more urban warfare
The Era of Urban Warfare is Already Here - Foreign Policy Research Institute
Battleground Metropolis: The Future of Urban Warfare
 
Urban is the future, we must be prepared to accept higher non-combatant casualties in future and reinterpret or rewrite humanitarian laws to offer better legal cover...
Preparing for more urban warfare
The Era of Urban Warfare is Already Here - Foreign Policy Research Institute
Battleground Metropolis: The Future of Urban Warfare
Out of the three, the second link is the most in depth and detailed and so probably the most worth reading. It also mentions Raqqa as being a particularly violent and destructive urban battle and so has extra relevance to this thread.

Note the following:
As a whole, a growing proportion of the world’s most violent conflicts are fought in cities like Aleppo, Raqqa, Mosul, Marawi, Gaza, Mogadishu, Donetsk, Saana, and many others, where conventional state forces fight against armed groups that exploit the urban terrain to make up for their relative weakness.
The recent military victories in Mosul and Raqqa led to the wholesale destruction of these cities.
 
Urban is the future, we must be prepared to accept higher non-combatant casualties in future and reinterpret or rewrite humanitarian laws to offer better legal cover...
Preparing for more urban warfare
The Era of Urban Warfare is Already Here - Foreign Policy Research Institute
Battleground Metropolis: The Future of Urban Warfare
Thanks. Anyone in the forces knows the attrition rate of FI/OBUA aka FISH & CHIPS and as the second article mentions, cities are the hub of comms, commerce, industry etc.
Cities, after all, are the bastions of state power. And as the epicenter of political, industrial, economic, and commercial activity, communications, and culture, cities lie at the center of transportation networks, where the state can bring its full power to bear. Scholars of classical insurgencies and civil wars have therefore often argued that cities offer easier targets for state control than the pacification of large rural areas in the periphery of the country.
.. and:
Most basically, violent conflicts happen where people live, and in the 21st century, for the first time in world history, more people live in urban areas than in rural ones. This change of global urbanization happened very rapidly. In 1990, the world population was 43% (2.3 billion) urban. By 2015, it had grown to 54% (4 billion). By 2050, nearly two-thirds of the global population will live in cities. And while urbanization and population growth are global trends, the world’s least developed countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, are growing and urbanizing at a much faster rate than their wealthier counterparts.
The biggest take away would be the point that there are schools and even in some cases cadres for winter and jungle warfare, but there doesn't seem to be anything for urban warfare. Most of us will have done such training, but it does come across (at least to me) as adhoc. PDT where I am includes such drills but I don't believe it is the norm:
In fact, leading voices within the U.S. defense community now acknowledge that future wars will likely be fought in densely populated cities and that the U.S. military will probably be involved in some capacity in any number of these conflicts. It is therefore critical for the U.S. and its allies and partners to reassess their preparedness for these eventualities.

First, and perhaps most urgently, the U.S. military should invest more resources in preparing its soldiers and units for urban terrain. The current approach is ad hoc and inefficient. There are no urban operations units, schools, or researchers in the U.S. military today. A single specialized urban army unit should be formed to explore the necessary manning, training, and equipping needs for operations within cities rather than today’s construct of all units being designed for war in the desert or rolling hills of Eastern Europe.
Ref humanitarian law. We are bound by such conventions and other states appear to apply (if that) lip service to them. Halfway through an op, taking a strategic complex, having the UN banging on the table asking to get in can't be easy but it feeds public perception:
Another complicating factor is that international treaties designed to protect civilians in times of war can have unintended consequences when it comes to fighting in cities. The international treaty banning wartime use of chemical weapons, for example, prohibits militaries from using tear gas, which is a nonlethal and relatively less destructive crowd control technique often utilized by domestic police forces. Military effectiveness and ethnics are not mutually exclusive. But these tensions highlight the need for a better understanding of the precise operational, political, and legal conditions that make different civilian protection measures more or less effective.
Perceptions are of course everything, which is all part of the information war. Showing you are allowing humanitarian effort in (and not stealing medical supplies), is one part. Providing security for those agencies is the next. It is a balancing act but it does need to be done and shown to be done imo:
The recent military victories in Mosul and Raqqa led to the wholesale destruction of these cities. Clearly, there is a serious need to revise how militaries fight in dense urban areas. With greater dialogue and coordination between the military and humanitarian agencies, the United States and its allies can not only improve their knowledge of modern urban warfare, but also be better prepared for future wars in cities.
 
Just a few photos of the Syrian armour/protection mods to T-72 and ZSU-23-4.
These T-72 (named 'Adra' or 'Mahmia' [shielded tank] once upgraded) have a professional-looking upgrade which seems to consist of slat armour standing 6" from a layer of passive, spaced armour (?) which, using the tanker's foot as a gauge, is about 9" thick. I've seen photos where the passive armour segments are empty, so they could be dropped into place when in combat, and removed at other times to save weight (?). Or they could merely have been awaiting the permanent fitting of the additional armour.
View attachment 337174
The same upgrade but with empty passive armour boxes. The armour would still have some effect but it seems the boxes are generally filled with something - SAA has not said what. Note thick slab of arm
our on glacis:
View attachment 337175
The ZSU has received the same treatment but with less stand off between the slat and passive armour. Much better than nothing, which is what ZSU have tended to have to put up with until now:
View attachment 337176
Lack of top cover is still an issue, particularly as the Republican Guard tanks have mainly operated in built up areas. Some tanks have been lost, possibly to attacks from above:
View attachment 337177
Which leads to this modification, which is unusual and seems massively to reduce the chance of a quick bail out:
View attachment 337179
The Adra variant of the T-72 is reported to be able to survive hits from first generation ATGM and some models of RPG, as here where an RPG-29 hit has been absorbed by the spaced armour:
View attachment 337180
Some internet sources suggest that the ball and chain skirts have not succeeded in setting off missile warheads and, on more recent Adra are replaced by slat armour.
In addition to the protection upgrades, the Republican Guard appears to be operating in urban areas with greater caution. About bloody time as they threw men and tanks away in the early years of the war.
As with all additional armour fits, the weight is a factor. These do appear to be more than the ad hoc ones previously used and resemble those 'bar armour' fits of coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. It makes me wonder whether they've done anything to the vehicle powerpacks and drive trains to facilitate the additional armour, or whether it's a 'this'll do and we'll deal with spares etc. later'?
 
Thanks. Anyone in the forces knows the attrition rate of FI/OBUA aka FISH & CHIPS and as the second article mentions, cities are the hub of comms, commerce, industry etc.

.. and:

The biggest take away would be the point that there are schools and even in some cases cadres for winter and jungle warfare, but there doesn't seem to be anything for urban warfare. Most of us will have done such training, but it does come across (at least to me) as adhoc. PDT where I am includes such drills but I don't believe it is the norm:

Ref humanitarian law. We are bound by such conventions and other states appear to apply (if that) lip service to them. Halfway through an op, taking a strategic complex, having the UN banging on the table asking to get in can't be easy but it feeds public perception:

Perceptions are of course everything, which is all part of the information war. Showing you are allowing humanitarian effort in (and not stealing medical supplies), is one part. Providing security for those agencies is the next. It is a balancing act but it does need to be done and shown to be done imo:
I would actually argue that the nature of fighting in cities and the horrible infantry attrition will be the drivers of two options.

Firstly, an acceptance of the use of chemical weapons in the urban environment as used by the Syrians and actively condoned or assisted by their Russian and Iranian friends.

This should not be a surprise. It was an expected part of conventional warfare in the 1930s and I suspect everyone was a bit surprised that chemical air strikes did not occur in 1940. Issue of respirators to civpop were an indication of this.

There is of course a perception cost, but again, as our Russians have shown, if you don't really give a shit, you can ignore that.

Secondly, I think you are likely to see a lot of autonomous drones of different types being developed to take the war into the city instead of humans.

As command and control will be impossible, you will likely see these as being " smart" but only within limits. There won't be the ability to programme for LOAC, probably just IFF.

I think the future of urban warfare will be much more dehumanised and atrocity prone.

This suits some of our adversaries who think "human rights" are low scoring words in Scrabble, but will be a political liability for us.
 
Syria's Assad denies Russia makes decisions for him: interview
Assad saying Russia doesn’t control him. There are differences in the tri-partite arrangement between Russia, Iran and Syria, but Russia apparently doesn’t dictate:
“They (the Russians) never, during our relation, try to dictate, even if there are differences,” he said, according to SANA’s transcript of the interview, given in English.

“It’s natural to have differences between the different parties, whether within our government or other governments; Russia-Syria, Syria-Iran, Iran-Russia, and within these governments, that’s very natural, but at the end the only decision about what’s going on in Syria and what’s going to happen, it’s a Syrian decision,” Assad said.
He believes the war will be over in less than a year and complains about the coalition (now the SDF have taken 25% or so of Syria from IS) are prolonging the war. Makes no mention of Turkey. Reasserts he wants ‘every inch’ of Syria back
In the interview, Assad also said he expects the war in his country to be over in “less than a year” and re-stated his aim to take back “every inch” of Syria.

He said the involvement of foreign powers such as Britain, the United States and France was prolonging the conflict and had slowed down a resolution to the situation in rebel-held areas of southwestern Syria.
They were going for the southern rebels, but ‘the West’ interferes with maintaining it’s agreed ‘de-escalation zone’:
Damascus has now set its sights on the opposition-held parts of southwestern Syria which border Israel and Jordan.

“We were about to achieve reconciliation in the southern part of Syria only two weeks ago, but the West interfered and asked the terrorists not to follow this path in order to prolong the Syrian conflict,” Assad said. The Syrian government refers to all groups opposed to its rule as terrorists.

The United States wants to preserve a “de-escalation” zone agreed last year with Russia and Jordan that has contained fighting in that area. Assad wants to being the area back under state control.
 
The SAA offensive against Daraa has begun with the capture of some villages on the edge of the rebel-controlled area. T90 are reported to be in use for the first time in the south. Russian AF aircraft are reported to be over the Daraa area to (I imagine) deter Israeli AF interest in events.
Social media has featured photos of Jordanian army units reinforcing the Jordan / Syria border, to prevent rebels from entering Jordan.
The stated aim of the SAA operation is to regain all parts of the Syrian border with Israel and Jordan, so there will be a risk of escalation. That said, the Russians are trying to reinstate the no conflict measures that were in place between Syria and Israel before the SCW.
An SAA victory in the South and South West of Syria will end the war in the West. What then? Idlib? It seems a huge task, particularly with the complications of Turkish outposts all over the shop.
Meanwhile, there is a growing Arabic opposition, in East Syria, to the SDF, US, Fr, etc presence.
Interesting times. For all that Russian power projection has been mocked (and I am not a Russophile), their support for Assad, and pursuit of a clear aim, has worked very well.
Edit: There are recent reports of Assad issuing instructions to reinforce secularism in the now stable parts of Syria: a prohibition of large beards and of OTT religious rhetoric. There also seems to be an effort to clamp down on looters, gangs, the excesses of the Shabiha that p**** off the average Syrian. This will be a hard thing to achieve as an element of warlordism has prevailed in areas where the govt. has relied upon local militias for support.
 
Last edited:
US 'will not help' Syrian rebels repel Assad forces
Despite the earlier rhetoric, according to the heads of the FSA groups:
In a message from Washington to the heads of the Free Syrian Army groups, the US government said "you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us".
E2A: Syrian rebels say U.S. tells them it won't intervene in south Syria
Message seen by Reuters and includes:
“We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone,” the message also said.
 
US 'will not help' Syrian rebels repel Assad forces
Despite the earlier rhetoric, according to the heads of the FSA groups:


E2A: Syrian rebels say U.S. tells them it won't intervene in south Syria
Message seen by Reuters and includes:
There are reports on social media of RuAF aircraft being heavily involved in bombardments preceding ground assaults in the Daraa area.
Is the US decision understandable (if reported accurately) as opposed to underwriting the security of a rebel enclave for an indeterminate period?
 
There are reports on social media of RuAF aircraft being heavily involved in bombardments preceding ground assaults in the Daraa area.
It’s in MSM as the first time RuAF have been doing such missions
Is the US decision understandable (if reported accurately) as opposed to underwriting the security of a rebel enclave for an indeterminate period?
It’s a bit early to say for me tbh. I understand the decision, but why the warnings previously? I’m definitely not counting any chickens personally
 

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