Before I get to this SITREP I’d like to note the Middle East right now is dealing with highly unusual weather. Storm after storm, and fallouts from the storms in the region have created torrential rains and flash floods everywhere. Areas like Gaza, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, parts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia are all witnessing strange and out-of-place weather. Basically if an area is adjacent to a river or the ocean, or is in the mountains, than an unprecedented level of water is dropping from the sky. This is not the first time that the Middle East has had such bizarre weather, but it has been more frequent in the last 2-3 years.
Syria, Iran, Hezbollah:
• The fighting right now in Syria reflects the strategic necessity of controlling highways and major junction centers such as Homs. Highways and roads ease logistical movement. Although most military vehicles are ‘all-terrain’ their treads/wheels (and at times engines) are more taxed on unpaved roads. Other impacted variables off-roading is top speed, fuel efficiency, and a higher likelihood of suffering some kind of breakage.
• The Syrian Arab Army, NDF and Hezbollah have had more success against rebels and Al-Nusra than they’ve had against ISIL. The Syrian military faces a few other independent actors as well (more later).
• SAA and NDF victories have been slow but purposeful. It’s been more than a month since the Russian air strikes have started and the SAA has had issues in maintaining security along supply lines and in gaining large decisive victories like those seen by ISIL in 2014.
• That’s not to blame the SAA for a lack of effort. It’s easy to forget a month ago the Syrian military was in desperate need to turn the tide against the rapid gains made by the newly coordinated Army of Conquest (FSA, Al-Nusra, and friends) which was just about to redraw the strategic map.
• The manpower issues that have plagued the SAA are one of the reasons these tactical setbacks are occurring. The NDF is stretched thin as is and the SAA is not replenishing their numbers as fast as they’d like. President Assad has done a lot of things to address the manpower issue including pardoning desertion, pension raise to military and retired personnel and offering tax exemptions to government employees [Source]
• Syria’s military is weakened beyond recovery for many years. The only deterrence Syria has against Israeli action is a stockpile of rockets and ballistic missiles for saturation missile attacks on city-centers and military installations. To what extent their chemical weapons program and stockpiles are is unknown especially after the 2013 Russian deal.
• Iran continues to lose high ranking officers in Syria. [Source]
• One can only speculate that this is really a targeted campaign. The number of SENIOR IRGC officers to fall has been too high in too short of a time span. Either IRGC commanders have a creed to lead from the front (even at the colonel level, which is admirable) or there is some serious accurate intelligence being handed down to anti-Iranian forces to get these guys killed. One or two commanders is one thing. One or two (high ranking) commanders every week is a different story.
Russia, United States, UK:
• The US will deploy Special Forces into Syria, the official number is set to 50 advisors. [Source]
• It’s most likely that the US has already had boots on the ground in the form of Special Forces (in the role of forward air control). Because the West likes to appear like its avoiding causalities and because drones are not as 100% accurate as the commercials like us to believe militaries are forced to use boots on the ground to accurately identify targets before airstrikes.
• Not ALL US air strikes are vetted by a FAC. Mostly ones that are in proximity to civilian centers (in which the collateral damage may exceed a certain number that might draw too much attention from news media).
• The British SAS were deployed in Iraq and Syria for some time. Apparently they’ve taken daring raids against ISIL positions in jeeps and humvees like it was World War 2 or something. Claims that they dress up as ISIL militants have surfaced but to what truth that holds is unconfirmed [Source]
• I get the impression that the SAS-dress-up-as-insurgents claim originated from a tabloid.
• The US seems to have created a new “faction” loosely uniting various Islamist and rebel forces. This faction is called the Syrian Arab Coalition (another name is the Syrian Democratic Forces). It’s planned to be used to fight ISIL directly and has already received US weapon drops inside Syria, giving them a level of success. [Source]
• The Kurds will be the more professional forces within the Syrian Democratic Forces.
• Of course this faction exists only in name, some kind of handlers on the ground must be vetting which groups should get supply drops and establishing communications between them to coordinate attacks.
• A very small number of US trained rebels are being used as forward air controllers to call in US airstrikes for this newly minted organization.
• You have to give the US credit, it keeps trying. The department of defense sold its new plans by successfully inserting Special Forces with Kurds to free ISIL-held prisoners and it has displayed how effective weapon drops can be in the hands of the right rebels in fighting ISIL. This has emboldened the US, expect greater escalation in support.
• Russia and the US have undertaken a joint exercise together to practice safety protocols in the air. A step in the right direction, for the US anyway. [Source]
• Russia is using much larger weapons, such as the KAB-1500LG guided bomb which come in several variants, including a fuel-air bomb (thermobaric) and a bunker buster variant. Indicating that some areas are HEAVILY fortified to require these beasts. [Source] [Source] [Source] [Source] [source]
• Russian anti-air weapon systems are active in Latakia, for now any attack on Syria must involve very large numbers of fighter craft. A buildup that sizeable would be detected before an operation can commence. These anti-air systems are only capable of handling the odd Turkish or Israeli jet that might want to test the limit of Russian resolution. [Source]
Army of Conquest, FSA, GCC, and Rebels:
• I can’t seem to understand what exactly is going on with these people. What their strategy is.
• They seem to be losing battle after battle. Albeit they’ve had a few tricks up their sleeves such as the ludicrous levels of TOWs (and TOW rockets…)
• What few successes they’ve had against the SAA and supporting militias are very minor compared to the losses they’ve had to endure.
• Their only hope is for Turkey to create a buffer zone for them inside Syria to take respite, but that seems very unlikely now that Russia is in the equation.
• One has to consider how Al-Nusra and the Army of Conquest gang (Islamists) feel after Saudi Arabia accepted that the Syrian government cannot be religious.
• Something is keeping the Army of Conquest in line after hearing that their hard fighting won’t see Assad leave and won’t allow them to establish a religious state.
• Islamists not affiliated with the FSA or Army of Conquest (Army of Islam, or Jaish al-Islam) use hostages in cages in a failed attempt to dissuade air strikes on their positions. The hostages consist of women, captured Syrian soldier and officers, and minorities [Source]
• The Army of Islam is part of the Islamic Front, an anti-ISIL Islamist faction operating in Syria. It is also anti-Hezbollah and does not operate with the FSA or the Army of Conquest conglomeration. One of the many independent and capable factions of the Syrian conflict. It is represented by the Syrian oppositions through third-parties as it is not officially recognized as an opposition party.
• They are primarily located around the outskirts of Damascus (Ghouta, Douma)
• A massive storm has showered Yemen with unseasonal amounts of rain, adding to its already substantial woes.
• Combat operations have been complicated for all parties.
• Another storm seems to be brewing and is heading to the Gulf of Aden. [Source]
• It seems bad weather has halted the Iraqi offensive in Ramadi. [Source]
• Considering the hectic unseasonal rains occurring it’s safe to say ISIL is also having issues. The entire region does not have the proper infrastructure to handle these levels of rain.
• Parts of Egypt are impacted by the storms. Deaths have been reported. [Source]
• Another Sinai attack by Islamists targeted on a club frequented by Egyptian police. [Source]
• A Russian plane fell in the Sinai. If I know one thing is never underestimate mechanical failures. It does seem though that everyone is treating the bomb theory seriously just by the way security agencies are reacting. The Saker has covered this topic very well already and it would be better to wait for the results. [Source]
• It seems like Cameron really approves of Sisi, probably because of all the British investments in Egypt. [Source]
Israel and Palestine (Gaza and West Bank)
Because people think I’m giving Israel a pass I’ll reflect on some of their actions seen with the Palestinians today. I doubt they’ll enter the Syrian theater anytime soon (if at all). Primarily because the government is going to find it very hard to sell any adventures in foreign territory after Gaza in 2014 and Lebanon in 2006. However it does seem like that something is going to go down in Jerusalem and potentially the West Bank. Gaza right now is being suffocated by both Israel and Egypt (Western-backed dictatorships always listen) and Hamas is not strong enough to resist Israel with the strongest military and Egypt with the largest at the same time.
• Israel is no stranger to pre-emptive wars. [Source]
• However the time to attack Hezbollah has passed with the Russian arrival. Strikes on Iranian facilities have also been ruled out due to the complication of Russian jets in the air.
• The situation right now suits Israel just fine. Syria has been shattered, Iran is occupied with Iraq and Syria, and Hezbollah has been losing manpower slowly fighting other Arabs instead of Israelis.
• Internally Israel has overreacted to a series of knifing attacks by Palestinians.
• The knifing attacking are motivated by the unending and unsympathetic occupation of Palestine [Source]
• The violence is escalating. A disproportionate number of Palestinians have been killed compared to Israelis but that has always been the case [Source]
• For whatever reason the targeting of women, teenagers, and elderly by Israel never ceases to surprise me (considering its vast technological and military capabilities compared to the Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza). [Source] [Source]
• The Israeli perspective shrugs this off as “Pally-wood” in which Palestinians stage these events in some form of propaganda which would make Goebbels cream his pants.
• Unfortunately for Israel this is a hard line to sell considering how fast the world is beginning to understand the disproportionate struggle which the Palestinians must endure.
• Israel and the US enjoy a very friendly relationship. The Israeli lobby inside the US has a significant level of influence. Although all lobbies have some impact on the US government and its foreign policy, Israel by far overshadows all others. [Source]
• Of course no one claims Israel is innocent in all this with its double-speak occupation occurring in the West Bank and its systematic torture of the Gaza people (once extending to even the allotted calorie intake allowed for the population of Gaza). [Source]
• Israel has some cover in the media to initiate an operation against the Palestinians in the West Bank. Right now all eyes are on the Russian and US and the action in Syria.
• Either by luck, coincidence or operational planning Israeli military operations occur when the world is relatively distracted by some global event. Many operations or wars occurring during international events (Both the Hezbollah 2006 war and the 2014 Gaza war were around the same time as FIFA. The second intifada was overshadowed by the War on Terror the US unleashed on Afghanistan and Iraq.)
• But more accurately these incidents occur during the Israeli election season. Leaders want to project themselves as tough on Palestinians and initiate operations which instigate the population to resist. The war in Gaza in 2014 (which still allowed Netanyahu to win the early elections months later) is a good example. [Source]
• It feels like Israel is fanning the flames to the current issue issuing ridiculous charges for stone-throwing (didn’t David defeat Goliath with a stone?), storming the Al-Aqsa mosque, impressing discriminatory policies, arresting children and hunting teenagers for posting on Facebook. [Source] [Source] [Source] [Source] [Source]
• Israel has mastered the use of deception and public relations but as the media becomes more proliferated it has become somewhat harder to maintain the narrative [Source]
• Israel has not had a war since the 2014 onslaught in Gaza.
• Russia will probably not condemn anything Israel will do right now against the Palestinians. I only can offer the fact that Israel isn’t making a stink about Russia’s direct involvement in the Syrian battlefield.
• True enough Israel hasn’t been more vocal about Russian involvement. Generally speaking Israelis like to make a fuss about any shift of power inside the Middle East. Twice is true to countries directly bordering theirs.
• They made a huge ordeal about the Saudis purchasing F-15E from the US and insisted their advanced radar features be reduced, thus creating the F-15S for Saudi export (downgraded radar features). And this is Saudi Arabia, one of the least resistant countries to Israel. [Source] [Source]
• Israel is a hyper-military power. Its projection capabilities are second to none in the region. Unfortunately the IDF soldier of today lacks the will for war, unlike the generations before them. This is reflected on their unwillingness to aggressively engage Hezbollah or militarily defeat Hamas.
• Israel attacks the Palestinians on multiple fronts, in the media, economically, physically in person and even on the international level. [Source]