The Syria Equation

With the rise of the so called “Arab Spring”, of which many including myself are still not sure if this was as spontaneous as we are to believe, Syrian opponents of the ruling Presidency and its system launched an armed rebellion against the Government. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Western countries jumped to the opportunity of overthrowing an opposed regime without getting their own hands dirty. Weapons supplies and financial means were made available to whomever opposed the ruling party and President, using the open borders of Turkey and Iraq. Within weeks, the rebel forces were supplied with TOW and Stinger systems and anyone with some common sense understands that such systems are worthless without training.

Rebel forces launched assault after assault and were able to severely weaken the Syrian Arab Army, conquer territory and confiscate further supplies from the overthrown SAA units and abandoned positions. Various rebel forces appeared on the battle field and within months some not only battle with the government forces but also amongst themselves. Reports suggest that rebel fractions armed and trained by the same countries to overthrow the Syrian Government even started to fight each other in their frenzy for power and control over the territory gained.

In this power vacuum in Syria, Daesh/ISIS was able to build an impressive fighting force and “out of the blue” conquer significant parts of Syria and Iraq. With their crusade through Iraq, Daesh swept through Iraqi Armed Forces positions and stock piles, gaining access to the latest-greatest which was provided by the USA after its occupation of Iraq. The question to be asked is where did Daesh get its fighting force and weaponry from prior to its rapid crusade through Iraq?

Continue reading

Syria: Moderate rebels and surgical precision bombing

Modern wars are no longer only determined by what happens on the ground, on the seas and in the air. There is a fourth dimension of warfare and that is the media. Depending on the side a media outlet chooses to be on and the narrative it is following, not only the opponents will be sketched as evil but also the effectiveness and righteousness of the supported campaign will be stressed. Illegally armed forces with foreign mercenaries and financial support become moderate rebels when they fight against the allegedly bad side. Merciless bombing of infrastructure and facilities will be sketched as surgical precision bombing when executed by the side which is supported. When however the side which is opposed executes the same bombing of infrastructure and facilities, the civilian casualties will be overexposed by the same media which is hailing the accuracy and rightfulness of the side it is supporting.

The conflict in Syria shows yet another dimension where Russia and the International Coalition are both claiming to do the same but with different political objectives. And these political objectives influence the reporting in the media significantly more than what is actually happening in Syria. The International Coalition set as objective to topple the Syrian Government and in the process fight the terrorist organization under the names IS/ISIS/ISIL/DAESH in both Syria and Iraq. Russia on the other hand, set out to support the Syrian Government in its fight against all opposing armed fractions in Syria and in the process strikes Daesh so hard that Russia itself has become one of their targets.

And in the middle of this all, Turkey plays a dubious role by actively supporting armed fractions in Syria to topple the Syrian Government and is openly accused of supporting the Daesh terrorists with supplies and financing though oil sales. Even if that would only take place on an uncontrolled black market, Turkey still carries responsibility in its refusal to close the borders with Daesh and rebel held territories. At the same moment, Turkey strikes hard against Kurdish forces which seem to be the only native forces that actively and effectively fight the Daesh terrorists. The downing of the Russian SU-24 fighter jet raised even more questions about Turkish true objectives in the Syrian Conflict. Continue reading

SU-24 attack by Turkey – all guts and no glory!

Until this week, the exchanges between Turkey and Russia were verbal. Rhetoric back and forth, accusations to the other and emphases on the own goals and results. In the view of Turkey, an opponent of the Syrian Government and supporter of rebel forces, Russia was actively attacking the rebel forces which Turkey supports and not attacking ISIS at all. Russia, a strong support of the Syrian Government, accused Turkey of supporting the rebel forces and allowing supplies and financing of ISIS through Turkey.

The majority of these rhetoric cannonades seemed to be focused more on the own local audience than on shirtfronting the other side in a serious manner. Turkey upped the exchange of verbal attacks when it claimed that Russian fighter jets were penetrating its airspace  and summoned the Russian Aide over these incidents. Not surprisingly at all, Russian denounced these claims except for one instance in which Russia stated this occurred by mistake. Russia took the verbal battles to the next level by stating that the ISIS oil production and trade it started to attack was mainly distributed through Turkey, which Turkey of course denied in all thinkable ways.

All rhetorical statements for political purposes between 2 parties that obviously support other sides in the same armed conflict. Nothing out of the ordinary, popcorn moments at most. Until Turkey decided to attack a Russian SU-24… Continue reading

The recommendation that the DSB missed – responsibility and accountability for information

First and foremost, I want to express my sympathies to the family members, loved ones and friends of the victims of Flight 7K9268 in the same manner as I continue to express my sympathies to the family members, loved ones and friends of the victims of Flight MH17. In both horrible incidents, innocent lives were lost and those who are left behind will have to learn to live with memories of the victims instead of the victims being part of their lives. Never again a new memory will be made by the victims, their lives have ended abruptly and the ones who are left behind will have to go through a long and difficult path of healing and mourning.

There is a picture on the internet, showing a 10 month old baby gazing at airplanes before her departure from St. Petersburg. A beautiful young life, impressed by all new impressions like all babies in her age are. Never again will she be impressed by what she sees, never again will she learn and grow. She died on Flight 7K9268 and all we can do is hope that she didn’t suffer during her final moments.

Everyone with the slightest grain of humanity will be moved to tears by this picture of this beautiful child and the realization that her life was lost on that flight, just like the lives of all other victims. This picture of this wonderful beautiful amazed gazing baby has become symbolic for the lives lost, for the pain of their loved ones, for the emptiness caused by the lives which were taken so abruptly.

There was picture of the crash site of Flight MH17, showing a child’s shirt with the print I <3 Amsterdam as it was found spread on the fields immediately after the crash. This picture expressed best what was lost on Flight MH17. Innocent lives, abruptly ended. Leaving their loved ones with nothing but memories and pain.

flight-7K9268Both pictures symbolize the impact of these horrible incidents, symbolize the pain of the next of kin, and as such, they are an appeal to everyone who thinks to have the right to report on these incidents in one way or the other. An appeal to understand and accept that under certain circumstances, the desire flight-mh17for attention or to sell copies should or even must be preceded by the respect for the pain and grieve of the loved ones and friends of the victims. The understanding that these pictures make clear how deep the pain is over the lost lives and that each piece of unqualified or unsubstantiated information only extends this pain. Unfortunately, this appeal is unheard by most! Continue reading

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.

Continue reading