Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

21 May 2018

Developing a Containment Strategy in Syria

Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States should withdraw its military forces from Syria. But the United States has several interests in Syria:  Balancing against Iran, including deterring Iranian forces and militias from pushing close to the Israeli border, disrupting Iranian lines of communication through Syria, preventing substantial military escalation between Israel and Iran, and weakening Shia proxy forces. Balancing against Russia, including deterring further Russian expansion in the Middle East from Syrian territory and raising the costs—including political costs—of Russian operations in Syria. Preventing a terrorist resurgence, including targeting Salafi-jihadist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda that threaten the United States and its allies. 

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Study: Russian Support Gave Assad Half of Syria

Agence France-Presse

Airstrikes against Syrian rebels have gone up 150 percent since Russia intervened in the conflict in 2015, helping the regime triple the territory under its control, a report published on Tuesday showed. The analysis by IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) also found that just 14 percent of the strikes were against the Islamic State group. It found that the Syrian state had increased the area under its control from 16 percent of the country in September 2015 to 47 percent in March 2018. Russian intervention not only ensured the survival of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, it changed the course of the war.

19 May 2018

Friends With Benefits


What does an “America first” national security strategy look like in action? The White House provided a hint in April, when news broke that National Security Adviser John Bolton had asked Arab nations, including Egypt and possibly Saudi Arabia, to supply ground forces to replace U.S. troops in Syria. (This came only weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump announcedhis desire to “bring our troops back home.”) Although details are scarce, Bolton’s new initiative appears to mirror a broader talking point coming from the Trump administration: rather than putting American lives at risk, the United States will work “by, with, and through” local forces to achieve its national security objectives.

17 May 2018

Assad Is Desperate for Soldiers

In late March, the Assad regime released a propaganda video aimed at the young men of Syria. In the video, titled “Braids of Fire,” Asma al-Assad, the wife of Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, stands before a squad of female army volunteers dressed in camouflage and army boots. “You are far stronger and more courageous than many men because when the going got tough, you were on the front lines, and they were the ones running away or hiding,” she declares. Her words are intercut with images of the women volunteers in combat training, as well as testimonials from the women and their mothers. The underlying message: Shame on you men for fleeing military service—a “sacred duty” enumerated in Syria’s constitution.

16 May 2018

Why a Trade War Shouldn't Wreck World Markets

Todd Royal
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Geopolitical spats taking place in Syria, tensions over China’s militarization of the South China Sea, nuclear threats from North Korea, and daily tweets from President Trump have caused market turbulence in 2018. Yet the ten-year United States Treasury yield reached 3 percent for the first time in ten years, which is a sign of investor confidence and stable economic growth. The IMF also reiterated strong market fundamentals and U.S. jobless claims are at their lowest level in forty-eight years. Then why are markets considered so volatile at this time? The reason seems to be geopolitical-news-headlines-of-the-day trumping market sanity and strong macroeconomic fundamentals.

Russia Confirms a Revolutionary New Tank Was Sent to Syria

Eugene K. Chow
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Russia has been on the forefront of building unmanned ground vehicles and last week the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that their armed drone tank Uran-9 was tested in Syria. The Uran-9 is powerfully armed with anti-tank missiles, an automatic cannon and a machine gun. It can also be reconfigured to carry different weapons like surface-to-air missiles. Additionally, the unmanned vehicle is equipped with advanced optics and targeting systems including a laser warning system and thermal imaging. While the deployment of the Uran-6, a minesweeping drone, in Syria has been widely reported on, little has been said publicly about the Uran-9, and military observers and analysts have yet to see it in Syria.

14 May 2018

Russia confirms its armed robot tank was in Syria

By: Kelsey Atherton  

When Russia shows off equipment at this year’s annual victory parade, included in that number will be an armed robot that Russia claims saw action in Syria. The Uran-9 looks like a tank in miniature ― 30mm cannon on a turret on top of a small tracked body. But unlike the armored beasts of war seen on battlefields for over a century, there’s no human nestled inside. And, according to statements published today in Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti, Deputy Minister of Defense Yuriy Borisov confirmed that the country tested Uran-9 robots in Syria.

10 May 2018

Syria crisis enters new danger zone


As Syria’s war grinds along in its seventh year of fighting, the conflict is entering an ominous new phase as President Bashar Assad’s forces step up their offensive operations and the broader proxy war intensifies between several nation states, including Iran and Israel. Assad’s forces have secured the upper hand on the battlefield and are concentrating their efforts in clearing out remaining areas of opposition influence around Damascus. In the coming weeks, look for Assad to focus on eliminating remaining pockets of opposition control around Rastan in the north and in southwestern Syria near the Jordanian border. At that point, Assad will face an important choice. Does he try to regain control of Idlib province in northwestern Syria, where thousands of civilians and militants fleeing other conflict zones have moved, and where radical groups such as Fatah Sham, which is Al Qaeda in Syria, control large parts of the province? Or does he instead turn east to contest U.S. backed-Kurdish forces and try to regain large portions of the country’s critical oil infrastructure? The latest estimate is that Kurdish forces control territory, including oil and gas fields in eastern Syria, that accounts for about 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. These resources will be critical to the regime’s long-term reconstruction project.

5 May 2018

Who are Iran's 80,000 'Shi'ite' Fighters in Syria?

by Seth Frantzman

There are 80,000 Shi’ite militiamen in Syria, trained and recruited by Iran, so it has been claimed. Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon displayed a map Thursday at the UN, asserting that some of them were being trained several kilometers from Damascus. “They are trained to commit acts of terror in Syria and across the region,” he said. Danon’s map shows the Imam Hossein Iranian garrison on the road from Damascus to Lebanon near Dayr Qanun. The figures presented by Danon have been picked up throughout the world. Asharq al-Awsat, Sputnik, The New Arab, The Daily Star in Lebanon and others have reported on it. Eighty thousand Iranian-backed militiamen in Syria affects the entire region and is a concern for countries that oppose Iranian influence spreading. Danon calls these fighters “extremists from all over the Middle East who are members of Shi’ite militias in Syria under Iranian control.”

Beyond Syria and Ukraine: Wagner PMC Expands Its Operations to Africa

By: Sergey Sukhankin

The terrible defeat suffered by forces of the Wagner Group private military company (PMC) at Deir el-Zour (Syria), in early February 2018 (see EDM, February 15, 20, April 19, 23), did not lead to the demise of this increasingly famous Russian PMC. On the contrary, it may be expanding its operational area to the African interior—in particular, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan. On April 20, the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) presented satellite images demonstrating that Wagner may have established a training camp on the territory of the CAR. The images also seemed to show Russian-produced equipment (notably, the Ural-4320 off-road vehicle) that had already been spotted in the Tunisian port of Sfax, allegedly on their way to Syria (, April 20).

4 May 2018

Everything You Need to Know about the Cruise-Missile Strikes in Syria

Dave Majumdar

Russia continues to insist that Syrian forces shot down a majority of the allied cruise missiles launched against the Assad regime by the United States, France and the United Kingdom on April 13, 2018. However, Moscow’s assertions are extremely dubious because low-flying cruise missiles are extremely difficult to intercept, particularly over land. The Pentagon maintains that all of the missiles launched against Syria hit their targets.

2 May 2018

‘Adversaries’ jamming Air Force gunships in Syria, Special Ops general says

The head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command said Wednesday that Air Force gunships, needed to provide close air support for American commandos and U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria, were being “jammed” by “adversaries.” Calling the electronic warfare environment in Syria “the most aggressive” on earth, Air Force Gen. Tony Thomas told an intelligence conference in Tampa that adversaries “are testing us every day, knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, etc.”

Electronic Warfare “Disables” U.S. Aircraft In Syria

Jacqueline Poggi 

Cyber warfare has long loomed in our future, but there’s little question that it’s actually happening now. We usually think of this as someone in front of a computer purposely attacking another person’s computer. Take the 2016 election: With the help of thousands of bots, Russian propaganda has made its way across the Atlantic, influencing the minds of millions of Americans across the country through often highly specific political targetingBut this isn’t just happening online: a new kind of warfare, called electronic warfare (EW), is here. And as the name doesn’t really suggest, it has a real effect on our physical world.

30 April 2018

An illusory victory: Was “mission accomplished” in Syria?

Dror Michman and Yael Mizrahi-Arnaud

After the April 13 attack on Syrian chemical facilities, the leaders of the United States, France, and Britain—who jointly conducted the strike—expressed satisfaction at the outcome. As Trump tweeted the next morning: A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished! But was this really a “mission accomplished”? The attack itself was quite limited, and an analysis of other paths not taken indicates that better options—to accomplish the intended goal of preventing the further use of chemical weapons, as well as sending a stronger message—were likely available.

28 April 2018

In Syria’s Complex War, Is Turkey’s Erdogan the Wiliest Player?

Frida Ghitis

One of the more intriguing aspects of the enormously complicated war in Syria is the position of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose allegiance and convictions appear to shift with developments on the ground. Two weeks ago, Erdogan hosted a summit meeting in Ankara to discuss Syria’s future. For a photo-op, he literally joined hands with the presidents of Russia and Iran, the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Erdogan not long ago was still condemning as a “terrorist” and the roadblock to peace in Syria. It was a gesture, it seemed, that Moscow, Tehran and Ankara now stood on the same side of the conflict. That appearance, however, was shattered last weekend after the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched a barrage of missiles into Syria in retaliation for the suspected chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma. As the governments of Syria, Iran and Russia decried the operation, Erdogan cheered, saying the U.S.-led mission sent an important message to Assad’s regime that “its massacres wouldn’t be left unanswered.”

The U.S., France, Syria, and Iran: Finding Winning Compromises

By Anthony H. Cordesman

The meeting between President Trump and President Macron can all too easily slip into one that either dodges the key issues that both countries need to address in dealing with Syria and Iran, or help cement the differences between the U.S. and European positions. President Trump has taken a strong, almost ideological, stand against the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, and seems committed to leaving Syria as soon as possible. President Macron has endorsed the JCPOA and argued strongly for a continuing U.S. and European effort to go beyond the defeat of ISIS and bring some broader form of order and stability to Syria.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement

27 April 2018

Syria in 2018 is not Iraq in 2003

by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Last Saturday, when the United States, the UK and France launched strikes on three chemical facilities in Syria, the move was met with disapproval in some quarters. The pre-announced spectacle blew up three buildings and took no lives, but some pronounced it a "dangerous escalation". Some spoke of its "illegality". All complained about its disregard for the OPCW investigationThe action, which lasted less than an hour, was an escalation only if everything that preceded it was normal. By this reckoning, Syria has now returned to its status quo of genocide by the Assad regime.

26 April 2018

Why Syria may be the most aggressive electronic warfare environment on Earth

By: Mark Pomerleau   
Adversaries in Syria are jamming communications and even disrupting AC-130 aircraft.
Syria today presents the “most aggressive [electronic warfare] environment on the planet from our adversaries,” according to the head of Special Operations Command.
Speaking before an audience at the annual GEOINT symposium April 24 in Tampa, Florida, Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas said adversaries are testing the U.S. every day.
This, he said, has come in the form of knocking down communications and disabling AC-130 aircraft.

While he did not specifically name any one perpetrator, it is well known that Russia not only possesses advanced EW capabilities, but has deployed it on battlefields in Syria and Eastern Ukraine.
“They have used Syria as a testing ground for not just aircraft, but also their munitions as well,” Air Force Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, deputy chief of staff for ISR, said of the Russians at a January event in Washington.
“I would highlight they have fired off cruise missiles; they have fired off air-to-air missiles; they have used long-range aviation; they have conducted really what I could characterize as their first away-game operations in a complete and continuous deployment arena.”

24 April 2018

How Can We Know If a Chemical Weapons Attack Took Place in Syria?


Every atrocity in the Syrian civil war provokes a furious row about whether it happened and, if so, who was responsible for carrying it out. The merciless brutality of all sides combines with partisan reporting and lack of access for independent investigators to make it possible for doubts to be generated about even the most blatant war crime. One good rule is that participants in the war are often accurate about the crimes of their opponents while they invariably lie or are silent about their own. This rule appears to hold good in the case of the poison gas attack on the city of Douma on 7 April, which killed at least 34 people and possibly twice as many. The Russian military claim that the attack was faked by pro-opposition activists and that samples taken from the site of where the civilians died were not toxic. The Syrian government issues blanket denials when accused of using poison gas.

A Thirty Years’ War?

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For those of you who have forgotten, here is a short reminder. The Thirty Years’ War started in May 1618 when the Protestant Estates of Bohemia revolted against the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II. They threw his envoys out of the windows of the palace at Prague. Fortunately for them, the moat into which they fell was filled with rubbish and nobody was killed. Had the revolt remained local, it would have been suppressed fairly quickly. As, in fact, it was in 1620 when the Habsburgs and their allies won the Battle of the White Mountain. Instead it expanded and expanded. First the Hungarians and then the Ottomans were drawn in (though they did not stay in for long). Then came the Spaniards, then the Danes, then the Swedes, and finally the French. Some did less, others more. Many petty European states, cities, and more or less independent robber barons also set up militias and joined what developed into a wild free for all. For three decades armies and militias chased each other all over central Europe. Robbing, burning, raping, killing. By the time the Treaty of Westphalia ended the hostilities in 1648 the population of Germany had been reduced by an estimated one third.