Opinion: who fights who in Iraq and Syria and who doesn’t

On the ground in Syria, we see various rebellion groups fighting against Assad and among themselves. Besides the notorious ISIL/ISIS (IS), there are different groups which are aligned with the just as notorious Free Syrian Army (FSA) or Al Qaida (AQ) or both and in all cases there are also at least indications of alliance with IS in the battles against Syrian Armed Forces (SAF) in Syria. Assad gets support from Iran and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and various volunteers in the same manner as other combatant groups do. In the middle of this turmoil, Kurdish Armed Forces (KAF) have carved out an area of Syria in which they basically engage in battles against all but mainly against IS and SAF.

In Iraq, the KAF have long before the conflict in Syria started already carved out the Northern area which was at time even protected by a no-fly-zone and seriously contested by Iraqi Armed Forces (IAF) between the 2 Iraqi wars. In the middle of the vacuum created by those Iraqi wars and the withdrawal of the Western International Coalition (IC), IS was able to conquer large parts of Iraq and defeat IAF rapidly before their campaign was finally brought to an halt. Iraq becomes direct support from Iran in its struggle against IS and indirect support from remaining small units from IC.

In the air, the picture is entirely different. In Syria and Iraq, the International Coalition conducts daily missions and the local Air Forces only play a minor role in the combat operations. IC mainly operates from bases in Jordan and Iraq with support from naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. Besides ongoing negotiations with NAVO-partner Turkey to use its bases for operations in Syria and Iraq, Turkey itself has engaged in sorties in Northern Iraq which appear to focus mainly against Kurdish forces and/or PKK.

And since a few days, Russia has entered the equation in Syria and continuous to expand its operations Syria and is obviously preparing to do the same in Iraq. In Syria, Russia has opted for direct air support from bases in Syria and added naval launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea earlier this week. A similar or even wider combination can be expected for Iraq in case Russia would join the campaign there. With this new development and further expansions to be expected in the near future, it is interesting to take a closer look at the constellations so far in Syria and Iraq. Continue reading

Opinion: How Russia goes ALL-IN for Syria and Iraq

The current development of Russia’s military actions in Syria show that Russia means serious business and has no intention to leave the equation before the job is done. What started with the deployment of additional Russia warplanes and supply flights for Syrian Armed Forces, rapidly developed into active bombardments of rebel-held positions by Russian warplanes and as of today, Russia deployed guided missiles against targets in Syria from warships in the Caspian Sea.

The deployment of these missiles are an important development which significance reaches far beyond the impact of those missile itself. To be able to launch missiles against targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, Russia will have to cross the airspace of either Turkey and other countries, or the airspace of Iran and Iraq which seems to be much more likely. Assuming that Russia is not looking for a confrontation with Iran and Iraq while it is seeking to setup a coalition with those countries, it is safe to assume that the launch of these missiles and their flight-path was agreed and approved.

Caspian
We can expect that Russia will continue to use the option of guided missiles, especially since today’s deployment turned out to be efficient and effective. As the military operations of Russia develop, we might even see a significant increase in missile launches against hard targets, air-defense systems and Communication, Command & Control of rebels of all kinds.

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