syria for monday

Russia will support Syria’s fight against terrorism in Idlib despite Trump’s calls to stop it – Kremlin
RT.com, Feb 17 2020

SAA troops. Photo: Mikhail Voskresensky/Sputnik

Moscow has vowed to continue its fight against terrorism in Syria’s Idlib province alongside Damascus, even though this doesn’t fit with Faschingstein’s vision for resolving the crisis. Both the RAF and the country’s advisers will “support the SAR armed forces in their fight against terrorism,” Kremlin spox Dmitry Peskov said in a briefing on Feb 17. He said that the Russian government “still regrets that these terrorists have revitalized in Idlib.” This follows Trump’s recent call with Erdogan, during which Trump “expressed concern over the violence in Idlib.” He also praised “Turkey’s efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis” in the province, and hoped that Russia would stop supporting the Assad government, according to the White House. Tensions in the Idlib DEZ have been steadily rising in recent weeks. On Feb 3, a Turkish armed convoy came under artillery fire, leaving five dead as a result. The tragedy occurred when the SAA was conducting an operation against terrorists in the area, and was not notified of the convoy’s movements, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Ankara retaliated, firing on known SAA positions, and sending additional troops into the de-escalation zone 10 days later. In response to the troop surge, Damascus officially recognized the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire. Erdogan and Putin also discussed the situation on the ground in a phonecall last week. The two leaders agreed that the Sochi agreement on the Idlib DEZ must be fully implemented.

Syrian forces consolidate control of Aleppo, air strikes under way
Reuters, Feb 17 2020

BEIRUT – The SAA said in a statement Monday:

We have taken full control of dozens of towns in Aleppo’s north-western countryside. We will continue with our sacred and noble task to rid what remains of terrorist organisations wherever on Syria’s geography they are found.

The advances were made after Assad’s forces drove insurgents from the M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus. Backed by heavy Russian air strikes, the government forces have been fighting since the start of the year to recapture the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighbouring Idlib province where anti-Assad insurgents hold their last strongholds. Government air strikes on Monday hit Darat Izza, near the Turkish border about 30 km north of Aleppo city. Witnesses also reported air strikes in southern areas of Idlib province. The advances have upset the fragile cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, which began a new round of talks in Moscow on Monday after several demands by Ankara that Assad’s forces should back down and a ceasefire be put in place. Sergei Lavrov said:

Militant attacks on Russian bases and Syrian positions have continued, and it is not possible to leave this unanswered. Troops from Russia and Turkey on the ground in Syria, in Idlib, are in constant contact with each other, looking at changes in the conditions. They have a full understanding of each other.

Syrian transport minister Ali Hammoud announced on Monday the reopening of Aleppo’s international airport with the first flight, from Damascus to Aleppo, scheduled for Wednesday and flights to Cairo to be announced within days, SANA reported. Al-Watan newspaper said the M5 highway, a vital artery in northern Syria, would be ready for civilian use by the end of the week. The SAA have also opened the international roadway from northern Aleppo to the towns of Zahraa and Nubl towards the Turkish border, Hezbollah said. Erdogan has said his military will drive back Syrian forces if they do not withdraw from Idlib by the end of the month. On Saturday, he appeared to move that date forward, saying Turkey would “handle it” before the end of the month if there was no pull-back. Turkey has sent thousands of troops and hundreds of convoys of military equipment to reinforce its observation posts in Idlib, established under a 2018 deescalation agreement with Russia.

SAA cut Anadan salient
Colonel Cassad, Feb 16 2020

Briefly on the developments in Syria. Ahead of the forthcoming negotiations of Russia and Turkey on Idlib, which will be held tomorrow in Moscow, SAA has achieved a major new operational success. After gaining control over the highway M-5, the SAA just a few days eliminated the Anadan salient to the north-west of Aleppo, occupying territory that Damascus did not control for 8 years now. No serious resistance was encountered at Laraman, Anadan and Kafr Namra. The SAA cleaned the area around the district of Zahraa, which for years had suffered attacks of fighters. In fact, on Feb 16 the suburbs of Aleppo were liberated, and now the whole territory of the city controlled by the SAA. The front went to the west, and Aleppo is now becoming the rear base. Many years well-known towns, districts, base and height, in the near future will disappear from front-line reports.






The retreat of the fighters has two explanations. On the one hand, against the holes in the front to the south of the salient, there was a risk of the SAA surrounding all the forces that were ion the salient. On the other hand, it cannot be excluded that there are already some agreements with Turkey on the future line of demarcation, and the Turks just ordered the militants to leave the area of the salient to Russia and Syria, so that the militants could withdraw their troops in order to strengthen their position in central Idlib. Tomorrow we will see how the second version is close to reality.

Before

After

It is worth noting that by reducing the front line West of Aleppo, SAA will be able to increase the density of fighting orders due to the released forces. The militants have lost the advantage of the fortifications in urban areas that were built up over many years. In the direction of Atarib, it’s already difficult in a short time to build an equally powerful system of underground tunnels and strong points, which in 2016 withstood a lot of pressure from the SAA during the battle for Aleppo.

To the south formed a solid projection, which creates an immediate threat to fighters with the resumption of active movement of troops to the west and north-west to bypass the chain of the Turkish observation points covering Idlib. Columns of armament for these continue to come into Idlib. Fighters have to cover the Atarib Kafr Noran and the northern approaches to the Taftanaz, where the SAA remains able to circumvent the Turkish troops, leaving their observational points in the rear.

A large number of troops the Turks have not only to provide personnel and equipment observation points, or the transfer of equipment to the militants. Due to the fact that the front of the militants has fallen, the Turks have to solve the problem an emergency fill numerous voids in the front line, who are now trying to plug by Turkish troops intermingled with the militants. But as the scale of the disaster was too great, and the 5,000 and 10,000 personnel were insufficient. Even the task of a counter-offensive in Idlib for SAA is not as easy as some people seem to be, as experience has shown campaign of the Turkish army against Daesh, even against irregular forces it suffered significant losses, then it will confront the SAA, full of heavy equipment and receiving nourishment from Russia and Iran, so losses from the Turks will increase many times, which will have consequences for Erdogan already inside Turkey. Options not very many.

  1. Russia and Turkey agree to a new demarcation line, which becomes an add-on to the Sochi agreements. In the current situation this is basically the best option, incorporating all the military successes of the Assad regime from December to February and the failure of Turkey, which has lost part of its negotiating asset, and also eliminates the possibility of premature rupture of the “business” with the “friend of Recep” (Putin – RB)
  2. Russia and Turkey do not agree, SAA continues to advance, and the number of collisions between the SAA and Turkish armed forces increases, with a corresponding increase in the number of casualties on both sides. Further events may develop at minimum to mutual attacks and casualties, without a declaration of war but with a fair increase in aggressive rhetoric between Ankara and Damascus, or at maximum the terminal scenario would be a direct war between Turkey and Syria, with precipitous deterioration of relations with Russia and Iran.

Turkey has several times explicitly made clear that it considers Syria separately from other aspects of its relations with Russia, and is interested in coming to an agreement, but Turkey wants it negotiated so that Erdogan does not lose face, and that the Kremlin at least conceded something to Turkey in exchange for the part of Idlib lost by the militants. The Kremlin is not interested in confrontation with Turkey, but does not want to give in to Erdoğan’s blackmail, emphasizing the fact that it is Turkey, not Russia, that has not fulfilled its obligations. In this matter Iran has officially supported Russia, pointing out that Turkey itself recognized the integrity of Syrian territory and pledged to fight terrorism. Something on these lines can be negotiated (Вот где-то вокруг этого и будут торговаться). If they announce an immediate truce this week, that will be a sure sign that they agreed. But if they do not declare a truce, then the temperature in Idlib will clearly increase.

SAA Liberated 180 Sq Km In Western Aleppo (Map Update)
South Front, Feb 17 2020

Syrian government forces have liberated 180 sq km from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other Turkish-backed militant groups in western Aleppo. This advance became a major blow to Idlib radicals and created conditions for further offensive operations in the region.

Northern & North-Western Aleppo Completely Secured By SAA
South Front, Feb 16 2020

The SAA and its allies have secured the entire northern and north-western outskirts of Aleppo’s city center. Pro-government sources said late on February 16 that the army and its allies are now combing the newlly-liberated areas. The army imposed control of several key towns there like Anadan, Haritan, Kafr Hamra, Yaqiz al-Adas and Kafr Bassin. The few remaining militants in northern and north-western Aleppo are now fleeing the region to the nearby governorate of Idlib. In the morning, HTS/Nusra and Turkish-backed factions launched a large-scale counter-attack against the SAA in western Aleppo in a last ditch effort to hold onto the region. However, the attack was repelled with the militants sustaining catastrophic losses. The failure of the attack has apparently led to a state of chaos within the militants. This resulted in a full collapse once the army began advancing from several directions. A major celebration is now taking place in Aleppo city. The locals, who have been targeted by rockets and mortars from the city’s northern and north-western outskirts for years, are taking to the streets to cheer for the Syrian military and its allies.



SAA To Open New Humanitarian Corridors In Idlib, Aleppo
South Front, Feb 16 2020

The SAA will open two humanitarian corridors with the terrorist-occupied Greater Idlib region in order to facilitate the evacuation of the civilians stuck there, the al-Mayadeen TV revealed on Feb 15. According to the Lebanese news channel, the new humanitarian corridors will be established in the town of Miznaz in western Aleppo and the town of Bjariz in south-east Idlib. The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria confirmed that new humanitarian corridors will be opened soon, calling on the remaining militants in Greater Idlib to abandon hostile acts and engage in the reconciliation process. Last months, the SAA opened three humanitarian corridors around Greater Idlib. However, al-Qaeda-affiliated HTS, which controls the region, prevented the people from leaving. HTS’ rejection of any peaceful solution forced the SAA to resume military operations in Greater Idlib. In a few weeks, the army captured the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway, formally known as the M5, and secured Aleppo city. The plans to establish new humanitarian corridors indicate that the SAA may announce a ceasefire in Greater Idlib soon. Such a measure could allow tens of thousands of civilians to return to their liberated towns and villages.

Syrian forces seize most of Aleppo province on eve of Turkey-Russia talks
Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Tom Perry, Tuvan Gumrukcu, Reuters, Feb 16 2020

AMMAN/BEIRUT/ANKARA – Syrian government forces made significant advances on Sunday in the country’s north-western Aleppo province, seizing most of the rebel-held region, state media said, a day before a new round of talks between Turkey and Russia on the escalation in the area. Turkey has urged Russia to stop the attacks, warning it will use military power to drive back the Syrian forces unless they withdraw by the end of the month. On Sunday, Russian warplanes mounted heavy airstrikes in Aleppo province, bombing towns including Anadan, which was later seized by Syrian forces supported by Iranian-backed militias. Rebel military sources said opposition fighters had pulled back from the area, including Anadan and the town of Haritan. Rami Abd’ul-Rahman of SOHR said:

There is very rapid advance by the regime in this area. In day one, they took an area where for eight years they could not take a single village. The factions have withdrawn from most of the area. In total, the regime has seized 13 towns and villages.

Turkish-backed rebels have launched an operation in Idlib to retake areas lost to Syrian government forces. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said on Sunday that a 100-vehicle convoy of reinforcements, including troops, tanks and military vehicles and equipment, had been deployed to Idlib. Turkey has already sent thousands of troops and hundreds of convoys of military equipment to Idlib. Images from the region showed many houses draped in Turkish flags, while footage showed residents chanting slogans as convoys passed by. As Syrian forces continued their push to retake Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria, Cavusoglu told reporters at the MSC on Sunday:

I have told Foreign Minister Lavrov that the aggression in Idlib must stop and that a lasting ceasefire has to be achieved now. Our respective boxtops will discuss the issue in Moscow on Monday. We met some Pindo congress critturs here. We told them that we expected a sincere approach from Pindostan in line with the spirit of our alliance.

This comes mere days after Pindo envoy for Syria James Jeffrey came to Ankara for talks on Idlib and cooperation in Syria. On Sunday, the White House said:

Pres Trump called Pres Erdogan on Saturday to express concern over violence in Idlib and thank him for Turkey’s efforts to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Pres Trump conveyed Faschingstein’s desire to see an end to Russian support for Assad’s actions and for a political solution to the conflict. Pres Trump also reiterated that continued foreign interference in Libya would only serve to worsen the situation.

Erdogan has said his military will drive back Syrian forces if they do not withdraw out of Idlib by the end of the month. On Saturday, he appeared to pull that date forward, saying Turkey would “handle it” before the end of the month if there was no pullback.

Syrian opposition fighters launch counter-offensive in Aleppo as large swathes fall to regime forces
Al-Araby, Feb 16 2020

Syrian opposition fighters on Sunday launched a counterattack on regime forces in west Aleppo, after dozens of villages and small towns were captured in a government offensive in the country’s last major rebel bastion. Backed by Russian airstrikes, government forces seized 13 villages and small towns north and northwest of the city of Aleppo, the SOHR said. Regime forces have made significant gains in the region in recent months, winning patches of territory held by jihadists and allied rebels, focusing their latest operations in west Aleppo province. Turkey-backed opposition fighters launched a counter-offensive to recapture at least two villages in west Aleppo on Saturday night, supported by hundreds of Turkish mortars and rockets. The latest regime drive into Aleppo province aims to bolster security in Aleppo city, which President Bashar al-Assad’s government retook completely at the end of 2016 but which is still targeted by rocket fire. Last week, regime forces seized control of the strategic M5 highway which connects the capital Damascus to Aleppo, the country’s former economic hub, and is economically vital for the government. According to the SOHR, Assad’s forces have attempted to consolidate a “security belt” around the M5.

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 18, 2020 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    that top picture shows that you either win battles or fashion shows.
    Syrian and American battlefield strategies diverge.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted February 18, 2020 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Absolutely!

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