Syria

It looks that way. The M5 is reportedly under constant bombardment north of KS (well, constant enough to prevent safe movement). Large Turkish convey with base components, armour, etc heading south. Speculation is they will create new OP north of KS. SAA can go around those OP unless Turkey fights so not sure what Erdoğan intends.
Turkey intends to have a buffer zone and protect its sponsored FSA. Assad's govt funnily enough don't want that and point to Turkey being unable to separate the Jihadists from their sponsored FSA. Assad's govt have been (allegedly) attacking the OPs on and off for a while now, hence Turkey beefs them up. Meanwhile Russia says the right things to Erdogan, soothes his ego, it calms down for a couple of days and Assad's forces carry on a bit later.

The bigger question is whether this escalates to open warfare between Assad's forces and Tr regular forces. After all, Erdogan could switch those forces intended for 'east of the Euphrates' to the Idlib area and set his MIT against another target set.
 
What are the odds on Turkey demonstrating its irritation by more direct means if they suffer further casualties?
I can't see Erdogan's ego allowing much more to go without some kind of riposte.
 
Turkey intends to have a buffer zone and protect its sponsored FSA. Assad's govt funnily enough don't want that and point to Turkey being unable to separate the Jihadists from their sponsored FSA. Assad's govt have been (allegedly) attacking the OPs on and off for a while now, hence Turkey beefs them up. Meanwhile Russia says the right things to Erdogan, soothes his ego, it calms down for a couple of days and Assad's forces carry on a bit later.

The bigger question is whether this escalates to open warfare between Assad's forces and Tr regular forces. After all, Erdogan could switch those forces intended for 'east of the Euphrates' to the Idlib area and set his MIT against another target set.
That is the question. Such an action by Turkey would be a big 'Eff you' to Russia too. We are dealing with people who react in a non-Western way to events - such as the Turkish convoy this morning. On the SAA side, they are cock a hoop and in no mood to stop - particularly as (on the ground) Iran and Hezb are not there. God knows what will happen.
 
That is the question. Such an action by Turkey would be a big 'Eff you' to Russia too. We are dealing with people who react in a non-Western way to events - such as the Turkish convoy this morning. On the SAA side, they are cock a hoop and in no mood to stop - particularly as (on the ground) Iran and Hezb are not there. God knows what will happen.
I suspect some table banging and rhetoric for now. Putin is too important to Erdogan. He might push it again with Assad’s forces but if Putin tells him to hold back for now, have another lull, ‘investigate’, apologies and sweet coffee all round, until the next time.

It really depends (to me) whether Russia will back Assad against Tr regular forces. That depends on a host of factors. Not directly, but definitely indirectly.

E2A: Btw, ‘we’ have no say in this. ‘We’ gave up on the FSA years ago and have little influence on Putin or Assad and a lot less (to me) on Erdogan.
 
[schnip]

...E2A: Btw, ‘we’ have no say in this. ‘We’ gave up on the FSA years ago and have little influence on Putin or Assad and a lot less (to me) on Erdogan.
Thankfully.
This is one mess where minding our own business regarding any action except diplomatically should have been the course we steered right from the off.
 
Thankfully.
This is one mess where minding our own business regarding any action except diplomatically should have been the course we steered right from the off.
That’s so long as we’re comfortable with the millions of displaced and millions we’re paying for to live in countries outside Syria. That and being comfortable with the rhetoric that ‘we’ are to blame by doing nothing as well. The Palestinian refugees seem to be unhappy with Israel and I’ve no doubt the Syrian refugees will blame Assad’s govt in a similar manner as well as the West.

The removal of IS from land taken from Iraq and Assad’s govt as well and the ongoing Ops trying to prevent IS-2 are different in my mind. It being part of a unanimous UN Resolution.
 
That’s so long as we’re comfortable with the millions of displaced and millions we’re paying for to live in countries outside Syria. That and being comfortable with the rhetoric that ‘we’ are to blame by doing nothing as well. The Palestinian refugees seem to be unhappy with Israel and I’ve no doubt the Syrian refugees will blame Assad’s govt in a similar manner as well as the West.

The removal of IS from land taken from Iraq and Assad’s govt as well and the ongoing Ops trying to prevent IS-2 are different in my mind. It being part of a unanimous UN Resolution.
With the alternative being regime change, which would create as many or more refugees, plus involve direct military action against a Putin ally.
Doing nowt's the least worst of some really shitty options.
 
With the alternative being regime change, which would create as many or more refugees, plus involve direct military action against a Putin ally.
Doing nowt's the least worst of some really shitty options.
Possibly worse. Possibly better. We’ll never know.

There’s also the unanimous UN Resolution from 2015, studiously ignored: Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2254 (2015), Endorsing Road Map for Peace Process in Syria, Setting Timetable for Talks | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases
 
More R&U update videos here than usual as a lot has happened.
Before that, KS is now reported as occupied by the SAA.
Aug 19th KS updates:
Aug 19th Russian news view of Turkish convoy situation:
August 20th KS news:
 
More news from Syria: KS is now occupied. This was reported yesterday but photo evidence has been slow in coming:


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The SAA is pushing to collapse the northern Hama pocket and to expand the territory it holds in southern Idlib. They seem to be kicking the rebels while they are down rather than consolidating, though they are preparing captured areas for defence.

The are reports online that the new focus is on Kabani. Mi28 helicopters have been in action over the town (see video) as the SAA is struggling to make progress against well dug in defenders, in hilly, often rocky and bushy/wooded terrain.


If Kabani falls, the road will be open for an SAA advance into northern Idlib towards Jisr ash Shugur, one of the largest towns remaining in rebel hands.

The focus is, broadly, now political: if the SAA can't be stopped militarily, what political events might halt their advance. Alternatively, what military actions would stop the SAA? (Turkish, coalition?).
 
... if the SAA can't be stopped militarily, what political events might halt their advance. Alternatively, what military actions would stop the SAA? (Turkish, coalition?).
I doubt any western coalition will get involved unless it's by UN Resolution (highly unlikely) or Assad uses CW once more. In the case of the latter, it will be limited to attacking his (supposedly none existent) CW assets again.

Turkey could stop Assad's forces easily enough. They share a similar values on human life and if Erdogan willed it, it would happen. However, that would increase the likelihood of Turkish v Russian forces coming into direct contact with each other. The trolls have been silent about Turkey's links and actions since Putin and Erdogan kissed and made up. They only need to shoot down another Su-24 and the rhetoric would increase dramatically.

I personally wouldn't be cheering 'total victory' just yet. Idlib will fall, but there's a way to go and despite more 'humanitarian corridors' being opened up, the civilians are not exactly leaving in droves. They will try to get into Turkey and beyond as they funnily enough don't want to stay under Assad's rule or head for Russia or Iran. You'll then have the die hard jihadists who have been moved on from other parts. Death ('martyrdom') fighting Assad's forces or go elsewhere and carry on the fight. Some will undoubtedly join the local defence forces. others join up with IS in Syria and Iraq.

Politically? We've already seen what happens even if there's unanimous UN Resolutions. They'll just carry on and deny they're carrying on. Same, same as it has been for over eight years.

Personally, Euphrates Shield part 2 or Assad's forces going against the SDF 'east of the Euphrates' is the bigger test at the moment.
 
I doubt any western coalition will get involved unless it's by UN Resolution (highly unlikely) or Assad uses CW once more. In the case of the latter, it will be limited to attacking his (supposedly none existent) CW assets again.

Turkey could stop Assad's forces easily enough. They share a similar values on human life and if Erdogan willed it, it would happen. However, that would increase the likelihood of Turkish v Russian forces coming into direct contact with each other. The trolls have been silent about Turkey's links and actions since Putin and Erdogan kissed and made up. They only need to shoot down another Su-24 and the rhetoric would increase dramatically.

I personally wouldn't be cheering 'total victory' just yet. Idlib will fall, but there's a way to go and despite more 'humanitarian corridors' being opened up, the civilians are not exactly leaving in droves. They will try to get into Turkey and beyond as they funnily enough don't want to stay under Assad's rule or head for Russia or Iran. You'll then have the die hard jihadists who have been moved on from other parts. Death ('martyrdom') fighting Assad's forces or go elsewhere and carry on the fight. Some will undoubtedly join the local defence forces. others join up with IS in Syria and Iraq.

Politically? We've already seen what happens even if there's unanimous UN Resolutions. They'll just carry on and deny they're carrying on. Same, same as it has been for over eight years.

Personally, Euphrates Shield part 2 or Assad's forces going against the SDF 'east of the Euphrates' is the bigger test at the moment.
I agree with your analysis.
Erdogan could get involved and, it may be argued, he may have domestic political reasons for doing so. However, Russia seems to be heavily involved in the current offensives and, as you say, the risk of Russo/Turkish conflict is a real one.
Idlib will fall but there are no more green buses as there is no where to go. In addition (as you note) those who could reconcile with Assad have done so [a poster on Reddit today made the point that the 4th Div, fighting at Kabani, includes many reconciled FSA] and the Zealots remain. Going back to the point about Syria being a domestic problem for Erdogan, he is getting tougher on unregistered refugees from Turkey just as he faces another huge influx from Idlib.
You make a very good point about going east. The US has opposed the few attempts Assad has made to move east but, to counter that, Assad has relatively small forces at Dez, Hasakah, etc. There are apparently 50,000 SAA/NDF hemming in Idlib. Once Idlib falls, Assad will be able to properly resource a move east. I am not confident that he will succeed but the question for the SDF, Kurds, etc is, 'How long is the US going to stay?'
 
... the question for the SDF, Kurds, etc is, 'How long is the US going to stay?'
It'd be nice if he actually recognised their efforts in removing IS from the land in Syria and Iraq. The US have opened up their JOC to discuss deconflction with Turkey. So far, Erdogan's panzer's aren't moving. If they can actually get a deal worth anything from Assad and he keeps it, that would be a bonus.

It makes me laugh to see how much coalition and local support it took to remove IS from Syria and Iraq. The idea is now to 'Police' the area and stop them reforming. None of that is easy with Tr or Assad's forces wanting a punch up. Maybe he will go south east first and drive IS out of 'west of the Euphrates'. I doubt it, he can declare 'victory' again and sit on the ashes whilst IS-2 and AQ-I part deux take over the country once more.
 
It'd be nice if he actually recognised their efforts in removing IS from the land in Syria and Iraq. The US have opened up their JOC to discuss deconflction with Turkey. So far, Erdogan's panzer's aren't moving. If they can actually get a deal worth anything from Assad and he keeps it, that would be a bonus.

It makes me laugh to see how much coalition and local support it took to remove IS from Syria and Iraq. The idea is now to 'Police' the area and stop them reforming. None of that is easy with Tr or Assad's forces wanting a punch up. Maybe he will go south east first and drive IS out of 'west of the Euphrates'. I doubt it, he can declare 'victory' again and sit on the ashes whilst IS-2 and AQ-I part deux take over the country once more.
I used to think/hope that Assad would be reasonable as far as the SDF/Kurds are concerned but, based on his actions to date, there is no evidence that he is prepared to compromise. The best - not very plausible - scenario for the SDF dealing with an inflexible Assad would be for the system that apparently pertains in the west - militias loyal to Assad running quasi-autonomous areas; paying their taxes to Assad and deferring to the obvious symbols of state control. If Assad were sensible, he'd offer the SDF, etc considerable local autonomy.
Re. ISIS, I think you made the point a while ago that the organisation is very resilient (possibly because it is based on a clear idea that persists even if only a few adherents survive?). Assad won't want ISIS to persist but, for example, countries in Africa with fewer issues than Syria, and at least competent military and paramilitary forces, have failed to defeat ISIS.
Off topic a bit but, as we have also discussed, the problems which contributed to the uprising against Assad remain. It is noticeable, in areas like Hama and KS in particular that the area was formerly well-watered (see, the number of orchards, etc) but that soil is rapidly turning to dust. Assad must deal with this by proper investment in irrigation. Turning formerly productive parts of Syria into a dust-bowl will not help the regime or ordinary Syrians. Also, the country cannot prosper or avoid conflict if the interior is abandoned due to water supply issues.
 
I used to think/hope that Assad would be reasonable as far as the SDF/Kurds are concerned but, based on his actions to date, there is no evidence that he is prepared to compromise. The best - not very plausible - scenario for the SDF dealing with an inflexible Assad would be for the system that apparently pertains in the west - militias loyal to Assad running quasi-autonomous areas; paying their taxes to Assad and deferring to the obvious symbols of state control. If Assad were sensible, he'd offer the SDF, etc considerable local autonomy.
Quite a few analysts were saying a few years ago that Assad would likely offer the Kurds a good degree of autonomy as part of a deal. There's several things that get in the way however. One is that the Turks will insist on the autonomy being very limited in order to not provide an example for their own Kurds.

The other is that the Americans may not agree to the Kurds negotiating with Assad so long as having the Kurds under American control is useful to the Americans. If the Kurds simply tell the Americans to do one, then their negotiating position with respect to Damascus will be weakened.

Of course if the Kurds wait too long, then Assad will need their acquiescence less and their negotiating position will be weakened as well. Getting that timing right will be difficult.

From what I understand the Kurds are more interested in autonomy than they are in who is running the show in Damascus. Right now they are useful to the Americans, but their own long term interests do not necessarily coincide with those of Washington.

Re. ISIS, I think you made the point a while ago that the organisation is very resilient (possibly because it is based on a clear idea that persists even if only a few adherents survive?). Assad won't want ISIS to persist but, for example, countries in Africa with fewer issues than Syria, and at least competent military and paramilitary forces, have failed to defeat ISIS.
I haven't seen anyone suggest that IS will cease to be a problem any time soon under any likely scenario. Rather they will likely be a chronic problem in the region for decades to come regardless of who is running Damascus or Baghdad.

Off topic a bit but, as we have also discussed, the problems which contributed to the uprising against Assad remain. It is noticeable, in areas like Hama and KS in particular that the area was formerly well-watered (see, the number of orchards, etc) but that soil is rapidly turning to dust. Assad must deal with this by proper investment in irrigation. Turning formerly productive parts of Syria into a dust-bowl will not help the regime or ordinary Syrians. Also, the country cannot prosper or avoid conflict if the interior is abandoned due to water supply issues.
If you go back a few years in this thread there were posts with analyses of the root causes of the rebellion. Some of the causes were economic reforms binning some of the older socialist economic models and a greater turn towards capitalism. This produced winners and losers, with the losers not being too happy with their lot.

However, one of the biggest causes was a long term regional drought. This had an effect through multiple channels. One was general economic distress in the countryside, providing fertile ground for radicalism. Another was people from the countryside being forced into the major cities to live in slums, again providing fertile ground for radical Islamism.

The middle classes who started the protests against Assad had little idea of how large and how discontented the mass of rural poor were, nor did they have much conception of their point of view. The result is that when the middle classes in the major cities failed with their early protests, the revolution rapidly fell into the hands of the radicals. This is a pattern which has been seen many times in the past (e.g. the Russian Revolution of 1917 for one).

The drought is believed to be at least partially due to global warming, and so isn't going away anytime in the foreseeable future. Similar root causes are one of the factors behind the war in Yemen as well.

Keep in mind though that in the videos you will be seeing now you will see signs of the considerable seasonal variation is rainfall. Rains fall in the winter, crops flourish and are harvested, then as summer goes on the land dries out as the sun beats down and the winds increasingly blow. Think of it as the agricultural seasons being reversed from those in northern Europe, with dry summer weather being the equivalent for agricultural purposes to winter snows in Europe. There are irrigated regions of Syria, but much of the land depends upon seasonal rainfall and this is not the season for rain.

However, with a growing population and a declining water supply, there is no scope for agriculture to remain the mainstay of the Syrian economy in terms of providing employment for masses of the pious but poorly educated. They need an economy built on services, trade, and manufacturing. The loss of so much of their entrepreneurial class to abroad is going to be a problem for years to come.
 
Quite a few analysts were saying a few years ago that Assad would likely offer the Kurds a good degree of autonomy as part of a deal. There's several things that get in the way however. One is that the Turks will insist on the autonomy being very limited in order to not provide an example for their own Kurds.

The other is that the Americans may not agree to the Kurds negotiating with Assad so long as having the Kurds under American control is useful to the Americans. If the Kurds simply tell the Americans to do one, then their negotiating position with respect to Damascus will be weakened.

Of course if the Kurds wait too long, then Assad will need their acquiescence less and their negotiating position will be weakened as well. Getting that timing right will be difficult.

From what I understand the Kurds are more interested in autonomy than they are in who is running the show in Damascus. Right now they are useful to the Americans, but their own long term interests do not necessarily coincide with those of Washington.


I haven't seen anyone suggest that IS will cease to be a problem any time soon under any likely scenario. Rather they will likely be a chronic problem in the region for decades to come regardless of who is running Damascus or Baghdad.


If you go back a few years in this thread there were posts with analyses of the root causes of the rebellion. Some of the causes were economic reforms binning some of the older socialist economic models and a greater turn towards capitalism. This produced winners and losers, with the losers not being too happy with their lot.

However, one of the biggest causes was a long term regional drought. This had an effect through multiple channels. One was general economic distress in the countryside, providing fertile ground for radicalism. Another was people from the countryside being forced into the major cities to live in slums, again providing fertile ground for radical Islamism.

The middle classes who started the protests against Assad had little idea of how large and how discontented the mass of rural poor were, nor did they have much conception of their point of view. The result is that when the middle classes in the major cities failed with their early protests, the revolution rapidly fell into the hands of the radicals. This is a pattern which has been seen many times in the past (e.g. the Russian Revolution of 1917 for one).

The drought is believed to be at least partially due to global warming, and so isn't going away anytime in the foreseeable future. Similar root causes are one of the factors behind the war in Yemen as well.

Keep in mind though that in the videos you will be seeing now you will see signs of the considerable seasonal variation is rainfall. Rains fall in the winter, crops flourish and are harvested, then as summer goes on the land dries out as the sun beats down and the winds increasingly blow. Think of it as the agricultural seasons being reversed from those in northern Europe, with dry summer weather being the equivalent for agricultural purposes to winter snows in Europe. There are irrigated regions of Syria, but much of the land depends upon seasonal rainfall and this is not the season for rain.

However, with a growing population and a declining water supply, there is no scope for agriculture to remain the mainstay of the Syrian economy in terms of providing employment for masses of the pious but poorly educated. They need an economy built on services, trade, and manufacturing. The loss of so much of their entrepreneurial class to abroad is going to be a problem for years to come.
As I understand it though, there are a couple of beacons of hope for Syria:

The first is that Global Warming works for the Middle East in that it inclines the climate to be wetter, provided that vegetation cover is maintained. Although of course this is dependent on adequate agriculture.

The second is that the war has effectively dispersed Syria's surplus population, not that this is a good thing, but could potentially reduce post-war social pressures. The downside is that Syria will need huge amounts of reconstruction, with few donors in sight whilst Asad is in power.
 
(...) The first is that Global Warming works for the Middle East in that it inclines the climate to be wetter, provided that vegetation cover is maintained. Although of course this is dependent on adequate agriculture. (...)
It would seem that quite a bit of considered opinion would disagree with you.

According to the World Economic Forum, the Middle East has been in almost continuous drought since 1998, and this is the worst dry spell in 900 years.
The region has been subject to an almost continuous drought since 1998, according to NASA, which says the current dry period is the worst for 900 years. The World Bank, which is spending $1.5 billion to fight climate change in the region, estimates that 80-100 million people will be exposed to water stress by 2025.

By 2050, temperatures in the MENA will be 4°C higher, according to Germany’s Max Planck Institute. By the end of the century, daytime highs could reach 50°C, with 200 days of exceptional heat every year. And without urgent action to curb global emissions, according to research, cities in the region may become uninhabitable before 2100.
The WEF represent the world's largest corporations.
The World Economic Forum provides a platform for the world’s 1,000 leading companies to shape a better future. As a membership organization, the Forum engages businesses in projects and initiatives – online and offline – to address industry, regional and systemic issues.
According to the Atlantic Council, the Middle East will be hit the hardest by climate change. Parts of the Middle East and North Africa will become "uninhabitable". As warming intensifies, state capacity will weaken and conflict will increase.
Global warming will do the Middle East no favors. Evidence abounds it will be the region that climate change will hit hardest. Summer temperatures across the region are expected to increase more than twice the global average. Prolonged heat waves, desertification, and droughts will make parts of the Middle East and North Africa uninhabitable. Where Middle Easterners will still be able to live, climate change may fuel violent competition over diminishing resources. Even though some degree of warming is inevitable, governments in the region and their international partners have done little to integrate climate change to their strategies to mitigate instability and conflict. Instead, they should brace themselves for a Middle East in which warming intensifies unrest, weakens state capacity, and provokes resource conflicts.
Again from the Atlantic Council, Syria is given as a prime example of the problems which climate change is causing. They say that drought drove the rural population into the major cities such as Damascus and Aleppo, and primed the populace for large scale political unrest. Between 2002 and 2010 the urban population increased by 50%. Climate driven economic stress also drove Assad's privatisation of state industry, increased economic inequality, and severed the governing power's connections with the rural population who had migrated to the cities (rural farmers had been prime beneficiaries of state largess).
For an early example of warming’s damaging power, look no further than Syria. Climate change caused the generational drought that preceded the ongoing civil war there. That drought drove rural farmers into urban centers like Damascus and Aleppo, priming the populace for concentrated, large-scale political unrest. From 2002 to 2010, the country’s total urban population increased by 50 percent. While climate change certainly did not compel Bashar Al-Assad to brutally crack down on his own people, it did prompt a confrontation that might not have occurred. Climate-induced economic despair and migration worked to reinforce other salient conflict drivers including Assad’s “privatization” efforts and concentration of power that exaggerated inequality and severed the dictator’s connection to rural, recently migrated communities. As climate change causes rapid temperature increases, food shortages, and economic pain elsewhere, more Middle Eastern countries might tip over into bloodshed.
The Atlantic Council are supported by a long list of major multi-national corporations along with major governments such as the UK.

According to The Economist, climate change is making problems worse in the Middle East with longer droughts and hotter heat waves. Crops are withering as the dry season becomes longer. The Economist sees the longer term as being "apocalyptic".
Apathy towards climate change is common across the Middle East and north Africa, even as the problems associated with it get worse. Longer droughts, hotter heatwaves and more frequent dust storms will occur from Rabat to Tehran, according to Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Already-long dry seasons are growing longer and drier, withering crops. Heat spikes are a growing problem too, with countries regularly notching lethal summer temperatures. Stretch such trends out a few years and they seem frightening—a few decades and they seem apocalyptic.
According to the World Bank, climate change's effects on the Middle East is already "dire". Areas suitable for agriculture are being reduced and some regions will become "unlivable". Higher temperatures will put "intense pressure" on agriculture and already scarce supplies of water. The risk of conflict is increasing.
Climate change is already affecting the Arab World in dire ways. It will cause extreme heat to spread across more of the land for longer periods of time, making some regions unlivable and reducing growing areas for agriculture. Cities will feel an increasing heat island effect and most capital cities in the Middle East could face four months of exceedingly hot days every year. Rising temperatures will put intense pressure on crops and already scarce water resources, potentially increasing migration and the risk of conflict.
According to the good and great of the world, climate change's effects on the Middle East will be dire, it is already a major contributor to the war in Syria, and what we are seeing in Syria is just a foretaste of what is to come more widely in the Middle East and North Africa.
 
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SAA troops outside the (now isolated) Turkish army OP at Morek, northern Hama. The Turks have theoretical road access to the same but there is potential for a miss-step by either side to cause a quick escalation.
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Syria - the first 'Selfie' war.
 
Suqaylabiyah, a Christian town in Hama, celebrating the SAA victory, which has pushed the rebels out of artillery range (the town was regularly shelled).


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