Syria: Life In A Low Priority Disaster

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August 5, 2022: The war in Syria continues to slow down. In the northwest (Idlib province) there are over 10,000 Islamic terrorists holding about half the province against weak but persistent attacks by Syrian troops. Most of the casualties in Idlib are caused by Russian airstrikes. The Kurdish-controlled northeast, including Hasaka and parts of Deir Ezzor and Aleppo provinces, continues to be attacked by Turkish forces, but not in a major way. Turkey is continuing its “decapitation” (assassination) program against Kurdish civil and military leaders, especially those supporting the Kurdish led SDF (Syrian Defense Forces) militia and Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish separatists operating in northern Syria. Turkey uses electronic eavesdropping on Kurds suspected of supporting the Kurdish rebels and separatists. Air strikes, usually with UAVs armed with laser guided missiles, do most of the killing and a lot of the surveillance.

The Iranians continue to seek cooperation from the Turks, Syrians and Russians in getting Iranian forces close enough to the Israeli border to make attacks possible, but no one is interested. Iranian efforts in Syria and Lebanon are very low-budget and Iranian officers in charge of this have to make do with very little.

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) also continues to contest control of remote areas in eastern Syria. Most of this occurs in the Badia Desert south of the Euphrates River Valley. ISIL or associated groups have long used the largely empty desert as a sanctuary. This desert area extends into nearby Jordan. Baida covers 500,000 square kilometers (200,000 square miles) and represents about half of Syria, 85 percent of Jordan, and smaller portions of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The Baida desert was long been the scene of ISIL activity and fighting against and between Islamic terrorists. All these desert areas are thinly populated by Sunni Arabs who are inclined to tolerate or support ISIL as long as ISIL attacks were directed at military targets and not local civilians. An exception to this rule has ISIL waging an assassination campaign against Islamic clergy and staffs of religious schools who teach that Islamic terrorism is wrong. Turkey is striving to achieve control of a 30-kilometer-deep (into Syria) border strip along the length of its Syrian border. The Assads and Kurds agree that this border strip is a bad idea.

The Assads are having a difficult time reestablishing a legitimate government, as opposed to its current status as a barely tolerated and much sanctioned government run by war criminals. The Assads have allies who are trying to work out a deal that legitimizes the Assads and leads to lots of economic aid and investment. There is some but not a lot of progress in that department. Israel is quietly working on a peace deal with the Assads by first consulting Russia, Turkey and the Arab nations Israel has diplomatic relations with. If Israel can achieve a consensus on how to offer and deliver the Assads a workable peace deal, Iran could be driven out of Syria. Israel and the Assads have been, since the 1970s, willing to leave each other alone and make mutually acceptable deals. The Assads would often threaten another war with Israel but did not pose as determined a threat as Iran. Because the Assads became allies of and dependent on Iran in the 1980s for protection from chaos in Iraq and Lebanon, they had to at least pretend to support the Iranian obsession with destroying Israel. The Assads knew better but until the Assad police state failed in 2011 and a rebellion got going, the Assads were able to resist Iranian presence and control of Syria.

The UN is also involved in this stealthy peace effort because Iranian interference has blocked the UN effort to create a new constitution for Syria that would assist efforts to end the civil war. The Assads are also hostile to the new constitution which would mean national elections monitored by the UN. The Assads cannot afford to lose control of the government because that would make them vulnerable to arrest and prosecution for war crimes. Accusations continue to pile up against the Assads, who always treated Syrians who opposed them with brutality and terror. So far this year over a hundred Syrians a month get arrested and brutally interrogated, or simply murdered, by the Assad security forces. Yet doing business with Iran can also be fatal for the Assads.

August 3, 2022: In the east (Deir Ezzor province) a small force of ISIL attacked a training camp for an Iran-backed militia. RPG rockets were fired into the camp, killing four militiamen and wounding five others. ISIL men got into the camp long enough to steal weapons and ammunition. Fires were set before the Islamic terrorists left the camp. It’s unclear if any Iranian personnel were at the camp.

August 1, 2022: It’s increasingly common for there to be days where no war or Islamic terrorist related deaths occur. Most of the fatal violence in Syria has nothing to do with Islamic terrorists, fighting between Kurds and Turks or Iranian efforts to establish bases near the Israeli border.

July 31, 2022: Russian neighbor Belarus agreed to send 200 soldiers to Syria to replace the many more Russian troops brought back to Russia to replace losses in Ukraine. Belarus has refused Russian requests to send its troops into Ukraine. While the Belarus dictator is pro-Russians most Belarussians are not and some openly support Ukraine.

July 30, 2022: In the north (Idlib province) Islamic terrorist rebels sued a few rounds of artillery shells to do substantial damage to a Syrian army divisional headquarters. Some Syrian soldiers were killed or wounded but the exact number was not released. This attack was in retaliation for an earlier Syrian artillery attack on rebel positions. These retaliation attacks have been going on for nearly a week, ever since a Russian air strike on the rebels prompted an artillery attack on the Syrian troops. The Russians are largely immune to rebel attacks because their well-guarded air base is near the Mediterranean coast. In the last few years, the defenses for the two main Russian bases (a port and airbase) have increased to the point where rebel attacks are not worth the effort. Turkish artillery and air strikes continue to be directed at Kurdish separatists operating near the Turkish border. There are more casualties than progress.

July 29, 2022: In the south (Damascus province) it was revealed that the commander of the provincial police and fifteen of his subordinates were arrested and accused of diverting over $16 million worth of government supplies to the black market, where the goods were sold and the police involved most of the profits. Similar arrests were made in other provinces although in some cases the commander of the provincial police was transferred. In Damascus province, which includes the city of Damascus, several other senior police commanders were transferred.

July 26, 2022: The Israeli defense minister confirmed rumors that back in May a Russian controlled S300 air defense system fired a missile at an Israeli fighter headed back to Israeli territory. The missile missed because 0f Israeli counter measures. The Russians quietly reported that it was a misunderstanding and won’t happen again. The Russians don’t like incidents like this, which portray the S-300 as ineffective against Israeli countermeasures. The Israeli aircraft attacked an Iranian base in northwest Syria and completely destroyed it.

July 25, 2022: In Switzerland, the Assad government quit the UN sponsored conference to create a new Syrian constitution and hold elections. The Assads accused their Swiss hosts of not being neutral and demanded a new venue for these negotiations. The Assads cannot ignore these peace conferences. Doing that would risk the emergency food and medical aid Syria receives from UN sponsored aid groups.

July 19, 2022: Turkey revealed that they were responsible for killing Hussein Shibli, a senior SDF military leader. Shibli was in northern (Kurdish controlled) Iraq for medical treatment when a Turkish UAV killed him with laser-guided missiles. Turkey and Russia are trying to persuade, or coerce, the largely Kurdish SDF rebels to side with Turkey rather than the Americans. Turkish missiles-armed UAVs, mainly the TB2 model, regularly carry out attacks against SDF and PKK forces in northern Iraq and Syria.

July 15, 2022: In the south (Damascus) Israeli missiles, fired from land bases in the Golan Heights, hit Iranian and Syrian air force targets outside the capital. This was the 17th Israeli attack on Syrian targets so far this year.

July 10, 2022: Turkey revealed that their forces operating in northern Syria, northern Iraq and inside Turkey had killed or captured over 2,000 terrorists so far this year. This is a category that includes Islamic terrorists as well as Kurdish separatists in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. About a third of these terrorist casualties are inflicted by Turkish forces operating in Iraq and Syria. The governments of Iraq and Syria do not approve of these incursions but lack the military forces capable of preventing the incursions. Turkey claims to have killed or captured 35,000 terrorists in the last seven years (since July 2015). Some of those dead terrorists in Syria and Iraq were civilian bystanders. About 600 Turkish military personnel have been killed in Iraq and Syria since mid-2015. Several thousand Syrian Arab mercenaries have died in Syria, Libya and Armenia (for Azerbaijan). Turkey pays well (by Syrian standards) for these mercenaries, who receive free medical care and compensation for disability and death benefits of next-of-kin if killed. Turkey does not use local mercenaries in northern Iraq. A growing number of attacks against terrorists in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, as well as regular forces in Libya and Armenia are carried out by F-16s and UAVs using guided missiles.

July 6, 2022: In the north, across the Syrian border in Quneitra province, an armed Israeli UAV used a missile to kill the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah forces in Quneitra. Since the 1980s the Lebanese Hezbollah Shia militia has been supported financially and with weapons by Iran. After 2011 Iran ordered Hezbollah forces into Syria to protect the Shia Assad government and later to take control of the Syrian side of the Israeli border and work with Iranian troops to launch attacks on Israel. This attack was part of a Israeli effort to prevent Iranian forces from operating close to the Israeli border gaining support from the border population in the border provinces of Quneitra, Daraa and Suwayda. Total population of these provinces in 2011 was 1.4 million but only about 20 percent of that was on or near the border. After the 2011 Civil War began much of the Sunni population fled. How much remains on the border is unclear but is apparently at least 100,000. Only Queneitra and Daraa border Israel. Israel has occupied most of Queneitra province since the 1967 War and the Israeli controlled area is mostly the Golan Heights. This is the high ground overlooking northern Israel and the Syrians made a major and ultimately failed effort in the 1973 War to retake Golan. Control of the Daraa border with Israel was sought by Iranian forces but Russian and Syrian troops blocked many of the Iranian efforts and are now pushing away Iranian-backed forces already there.

July 2, 2022: On the west coast, outside the port of Tartus, a missile, apparently from Israel, hit a target described as an Iranian (surface to air) system that recently arrived by ship. Iran suffered heavy losses when weapons were transported by truck via Syria. Some systems are too heavy for air transports and ships are the only option. Syria will sometimes attack these at sea before they reach Syria. Today’s attack also wounded two civilians. This was the 16th Israeli airstrike in Syria so far in 2022.

June 29, 2022: In the south (Quneitra province) Syria, Iranian Shia Arab mercenaries are being subjected to a purge by their Iranian employers who have noted a lack of enthusiasm for their work. If the unemployment weren’t so high, these poor performers would not be working for these Iranian fanatics. The regular pay is a tremendous incentive to pretend you’re doing your job and hope the Iranians don’t notice. They did and took action. Iran has been having cash-flow problems since American economic sanctions were revived in 2017. Iran was forced to reduce what it spent on mercenaries in Syria and Lebanon. Iran does not send Iranian troops from the army because most of those soldiers want nothing to do with overseas wars and neither do the families of these soldiers. For a while some army commandos volunteered to go but that eventually ended as anti-government sentiment increased back in Iran and IRGC personnel supplied as much supervision as they could. The IRGC was created in the 1980s to protect the religious dictatorship from attacks by disloyal military personnel. Then and now, many, now most, Iranians opposed the religious dictatorship. Now the IRGC is having problems finding suitable new recruits. At the same time the IRGC is facing growing problems inside Iran, not just from the Iranian military, but from the general public and a growing presence of Israeli assassinations (of IRGC and nuclear weapon specialists) and sabotage attacks on Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.

June 28, 2022: Turkey maintained that its rejection of Finland and Sweden's NATO bids was firm. However, he also urged the U.S. to approve Turkey’s request to buy more F-16 fighters. Following this statement, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum that allegedly addresses Turkey’s security issues vis a vis the PKK and other organizations. Finland and Sweden indicated they would not support the Syrian Kurdish groups (ie, the YPG). Many Swedish political groups denounced the agreement but so far no Kurds living in Sweden or Finland have been sent back to Turkey. Eventually Turkey backed off on its refusal to approve the Swedes and Finns application to join NATO. .

 

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