Of course, since the threat of a SAA offensive deep into Idlib is far from illusory, substantial efforts are being made to slow it down. Turkey during the backroom negotiations is trying to convince Russia to pressure Damascus to stop the offensive. Judging by the fact that the air strikes continue, and the SAA offensive is not stopped, the parties have not yet come to an agreement, or vice versa, there is already an agreement on what line the SAA offensive will develop. It is noteworthy that the rhetoric of the Turkish media regarding Idlib faded into the background against the background of the development of operations of the Turkish army in Iraq and Afrin against the Kurds.
Short on Syria.
1. SAA today took the village of Qasabiya north of Kafr Nabuda. In fact, one of the districts is occupied, from where in mid-May, Al-Nusra launched a counter-offensive in order to return Kafr Nabuda. In essence, these are necessary supporting measures that expand the zone of control around Kafr Nabud and prepare a blow to the east in order to break through the defenses of militants on the Abidin-Al-Habit-Tal-Sahar line. Hacking positions of militants in this direction will create a direct threat to Khan Shaykhun and key communications, which are supplied by the militant group on the Lataminah ledge. Therefore, the militants will be most stubbornly defending these positions, if possible, going into counterattacks. Nevertheless, the May fights cost them dearly in people and technology, and those units that have been fighting in northern Hama since the beginning of May are pretty battered, and their shock capabilities are limited. On the other hand, due to the pulling up of the remaining reserves from the depths of Idlib, some repetition of the counteroffensive on Kafr Nabuda is quite possible. Systemic strikes by Syrian air forces and the Russian VKS in North Hama and the central regions of Idlib are aimed at breaking the connectivity of the militants’ logistics infrastructure in order to impede their possible reaction if an attack from Kalat al-Madik (north to Jisr al-Shuguru) and Kafr Nabuda will be complemented by a strike north-east of Moreké and pressure on the militant front line south-west of Aleppo.
2. Of course, since the threat of a SAA offensive deep into Idlib is far from illusory, substantial efforts are being made to slow it down. Turkey during the backroom negotiations is trying to convince Russia to pressure Damascus to stop the offensive. Judging by the fact that the air strikes continue, and the SAA offensive is not stopped, the parties have not yet come to an agreement, or vice versa, there is already an agreement on what line the SAA offensive will develop. It is noteworthy that the rhetoric of the Turkish media regarding Idlib faded into the background against the background of the development of operations of the Turkish army in Iraq and Afrin against the Kurds.
Kurds of Rojava declare that they are ready to negotiate with Damascus, but judging by the failure of the previous round, when Assad rejected the Kurdish Wishlist, YPG cannot receive any guarantees from Damascus, and therefore the risk of the Turkish operation in Rojava has not disappeared.
The United States, in turn, relies on traditional propaganda clichés that Trump has reproduced today, calling on Russia and Syria to stop using aviation in Idlib. On the one hand, this looks like empty rhetoric in support of the terrorists, but on the other hand, if we bring provocation with “chemical weapons” to this rhetoric, there can be a reason for launching new attacks on the SAA air bases.
3. Regarding air strikes. In recent days, Israel has twice bombed targets in Syria – once in Quneitra province, citing the fact that the Syrian anti-aircraft gun was firing at an Israeli aircraft in Israeli airspace, and another time – the attack was on the Tiyas air base (motivated by Iranian activity Iranian drones are periodically marked on the base). Part of the missiles launched by Israel in both cases was hit by a Syrian air defense system – several dead and moderate material losses were officially marked. The topic of Iran will soon be discussed at the talks between the United States, Israel and Russia, where, according to leaks in the press, a familiar deal will be discussed – Russia should limit Iran’s influence in Syria, and the United States and Israel will make concessions to Russia regarding Assad (recognition of its legitimacy, withdrawal parts of the sanctions and humanitarian assistance). This transaction in its current form is rather beneficial to the United States, since the destruction of the Russian-Iranian partnership is one of the priority goals of American policy in the Middle East. The deterioration of Russia’s relations with Iran will weaken its position in Syria and Iraq, so Washington is ready to go to certain casualties in Syria, in which the United States has already lost the war. Iran, of course, will not withdraw from Syria, but within the framework of multilateral agreements, some kind of backstage transactions are possible, which include the recognition of Assad, partial lifting of sanctions on Syria and Iran, reduction of military supplies to Lebanon through Syria, etc. and the like, which ultimately will include an exit to direct negotiations between the US and Iran on a nuclear deal. This is a rather complicated process and there are no guarantees that these negotiations will lead to some agreements, although the successful experience of liquidating the Southern Front militants in Deraa and Quneitra shows that in some cases such transactions are possible. To make the deal possible, the US needs to change its approach to Iran, otherwise Iran will respond to pressure only by further escalation – the IRGC command has already announced that it will continue to actively support Hezbollah and the Hussites in Yemen (who launched a ballistic missile again in Saudi Arabia) , showing that Tehran has its own possibilities to put pressure on Israel and Saudi Arabia.
4. In Moscow a group of Caucasians killed the veteran of the GRU, who fought in Syria. Face “don’t call nationality” (we have the same tolerant country) was beaten by two guys. Ex-commando (several months ago retired from the army) Nikita Belyankin decided to intervene to stop the beating as a man, for which he received a fatal blow with a knife. On the one hand the theme obviously raises the problematic issues of inter-ethnic relations, including ethnic crime, especially associated with a feeling of permissiveness and impunity (often false), which is cultivated in ethnic, criminal and near-criminal groups. What do you expect from this story and landings guilty on serious terms, an open investigation of the case and help the family of the deceased from the state. The lack of a strong and open responses would be a mistake, both from the point of view of punishment responsible for the death of Belyankina, and the complex system of international relations in General.
Qiam-1 missile tests. Range 800 kilometers. Declared a high accuracy of destruction.
5. Iran continues to maintain active operations near the border of Syria and Iraq, actively using its proxy formations to sweep the remains of ISIL in order to ensure control over the border by regular forces of the Syrian and Iraqi governments, whose troops also participate in border and cross-border operations. Along the way, Iran maintains a high level of military presence of its proxies in the Abu Kemal area and in the western districts of Anbar province to ensure the safety of the Shiite bridge from US attempts to use ISIS or other militant groups to seize Abu Kemal or border areas through which goods enter Syria for Iranian proxies and Hezbollah. Iran is now paying more attention to Iraq, where Suleymani is often operating – the escalation of relations between Iran and the United States is forcing Tehran to actualize the threat to the American contingent in Iraq in order to show that the United States is also vulnerable. Therefore, Syria, although not in the background, is currently somewhat obscured by the complex chess game of Iraq’s policy, where Iran is trying to consolidate its military and political successes and create the prerequisites for the withdrawal of American troops.
At the same time, work is being carried out with local tribal leaders to establish their interaction with pro-Iranian military structures. This work affects the illegal transportation of oil from the Rojava to the territory controlled by Assad. Despite the US ban, Kurds and Arabs continue to illegally export oil from tank trucks and river tankers from Kurdish regions. One of these the other day was destroyed by the Americans with the help of “Javelin” (killed several civilians). Of course, this will not stop the flow, since even in the times of ISIS, oil from Rojava went to Turkey, Iraq and Syria through various smuggling schemes. Now, the level of corruption has only grown, and the restoration of normal economic activity is hampered by sanctions, the residual activity of the militants and the occupation of the US Rojava. Therefore, the gray oil business will continue, and since it, among other things, passes through the territory where the influence of Iranian proxies is great, pro-Iranian forces will somehow get into it along with other participants.
Fires in fields, which were organized by ISIS cells in the provinces of Homs and Aleppo. The world empire did not work out – so we will burn the crops.
6. ISIL continues to bend its already traditional line of life after death – the standard tactics of attacks on remote settlements, military checkpoints, and terrorist attacks in cities have long been replaced by pompous plans for state-building.
Over the past week, several ISIS gangs attacked Syrians in the Mayadin and Deir-ez-Zor areas, as well as in East Homs. In addition, several attacks occurred in the occupied US territory of the Rozhava, where civilians and Kurdish SDF fighters were killed.
Also, a large-scale terrorist attack occurred in occupied Raqqa, and in addition in Azaz-controlled Turkey, the total number of deaths per week at the hands of ISIS was several dozen people. There is more work for more than one year – it is necessary to track down and exterminate the remaining “blacks”. As they are exterminated, about 1000-1500 people still need to be eliminated throughout Syria, activity will inevitably decrease. The lack of control over part of the territories makes it difficult for Damascus to implement the necessary counter-terrorism measures, since some of the militants are hiding in the areas occupied by the United States and Turkey. Cross-border operations on the border with Iraq only partially solve the problem.
A schematic plan of a possible operation for cutting the Lataminah ledge protrusion.
The scheme involves a roundabout movement in converging directions in order to avoid the need to break through the main defenses of the militants at Morek, Lataminah and Kafr Zita.
One group comes through Al-Habit, the other across the hills north of Morek. The ring should close north of Khan-Sheikhun, with the result that several thousand militants are surrounded.
It seems that the main problem in the implementation of this or identical plans is the position of Turkey, which by all means seeks to slow down the offensive actions of the SAA, which is the subject of ongoing negotiations between Turkey and the Russian Federation.
It is noteworthy that parallel to those stuck in battles to the south of Tripoli. Haftar is in talks with the Kremlin, so that Moscow would influence Turkey, which supplies weapons to Saraj, which in many ways interferes with the plans of the LNA and those countries that stand behind Haftar in reformatting Libya. Plus, the Kurdish issue overlaps this background, as Turkey is now actively conducting operations in northwestern Iraq (against the PKK) and in Afrin (against the YPG and other Kurdish partisan formations). The first is not so significant for Moscow, since it is more a problem of Iraq and partly Iran. The second is more significant, as Afrin is a Syrian territory and one way or another is included in the main negotiation agenda for the future of post-war Syria.
The result of the negotiations between Turkey and the Russian Federation is likely to be a compromise – it is unlikely that Turkey will surrender Idlib before the main negotiations on the inter-Syrian settlement, as the defeats of the militants before the negotiations strengthen Assad and weaken the Turkish position. Therefore, Turkey seeks to localize or even stop the SAA offensive both through military channels of communication between the Russian Defense Ministry and the Turkish military, as well as through diplomatic contacts through the Foreign Ministry and the presidents.
The militants, in turn, are trying to use this pressure for their own purposes, which has already led to long and bloody battles for Kafr Nabuda, as well as to several Al-Nusra counterattacks in Al-Gab (mostly unsuccessful for them). Turkish assistance plays a certain role, but it certainly is not enough for more ambitious actions – the balance of power, especially in terms of fire destruction, is clearly not in favor of the militants. At the same time, there is no full-fledged second front, which earlier several times delayed part of the SAA forces. Now, the SAA has to be distracted by ISIS raids in East Homs, Suwayda, and Deir-ez-Zor, which are stopped by second-rate units, militia and Iranian proxies. The main forces and the most combat-ready units are now concentrated precisely in Northern Latakia, Northern Hama and south-west of Aleppo.
While these diplomatic maneuvers continue, the SAA pulls up reserves, gradually building up forces in areas from which the dissecting strikes can follow according to the scheme presented above. The area of Lataminah ledge itself and central Idlib are subjected to very strong air strikes, which is quite logical to be perceived as a planned element of the preparation of a large-scale offensive operation. The same can be attributed to the opened checkpoints for the release of civilians from the battlefield – again, the standard practice of the Syrian war in 2016-2018, which the Russian military advisers persistently advanced.
I believe that if the Russian Federation provides the necessary diplomatic conditions for this operation, then the SAA, with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces and military advisers (as well as the SSO), is fully capable of solving the ambitious task of cutting off the El Latina junction and freeing Khan Sheikhun.
The United States and CO, in turn, will play the “chemical weapon” card, because the United States does not have any other working scenarios. Therefore, again, “chemical Assad”, “White Helmets”, “destroyed hospitals” and other identical nonsense, which the ingeniously try to justify new attacks on the SAA.
As you can see from the statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Defense Ministry, Moscow is trying to play information and diplomatically play preemptively, but as practice shows, if necessary, the United States will not even bother with the plausibility of the “Assad chemical weapons” stories, therefore the US intervention in defense of the Syrian Al-Qaeda cannot be ruled out.