Death by Proxy. Syria’s Civil War

10-Sept 2014: The thinking of the Washington establishment and the American national security apparatus will be:  'With war declared on ISIS by America - it is critical that US airpower hit ISIS/L and Assad government targets - at the same time. Once we have sufficient air power operating against ISIS in Iraq it is a simple matter to encompass strikes on Assad. And we punish Russia (in Ukraine) and Russia and Iran (supporting Assad) and Saudi/Qatar (for supporting ISIS/L) Wahhabists.' 

The truth is a lot more complicated. We will start a new post shortly as semester studies have started.
[Above] An all too familiar sight, Bashar al-Assad using the SyAAF to kill thousands. The Syrian Civil War has produced the largest man-made humanitarian catastrophe since WWII.

18-Jun 2014: The war in Syria has taken a dramatic turn now that prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia is publicly out of the picture. Saudi supported ISIS/L Salafi-Wahhabists fighting a 3-front war in Syria against Assad, Syrian rebels, and Syrian Kurds - instead turned and attacked deep into predominately Sunni areas of Iraq. This has resulted in large ISIS seizures of US-supplied Iraqi military hardware.

Saudi Arabia has vigorously denied supporting the ISIS/L. However, Saudi history with Wahhabism-Salafism is a matter of historical fact.

As would be expected, the Iranian reaction to developments in Iraq (ISIS advance on Mosul, Tikrit, and Baghdad) is to withdraw IRGC (Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps) assets from Syria to re-route them to Iraq. This may dramatically (?) shift the balance in the Syrian civil war in favor of anti-Assad forces and put pressure on Hezbollah to make up for IRGC redeployment out of Syria. 

[June 2014] If ISIS threatens Iraqi oil output - we predict Western intervention. [10-Sept-2014] This has now happened.

The Syrian regime may finally be truly tested against Syrian rebels?

If ISIS brings US hardware from Iraq into Syria (like Humvees) - they will be easily recognizable IFF targets for Assad air power (as well as rebel and Kurdish fighters).

16-Apr 2014: Jordanian air force destroys vehicles trying to cross from Syria.

27-Mar 2014: SyAAF MiG-29 strafes straight at the camera!
One of the most intriguing and powerful Soviet aircraft ever built (designed to shot down the American XB-70), most observers had assumed the MiG-25 (PD interceptors and RB reconnaissance variants) had been phased out of Syrian service years ago. Foxbat pilots would be some of the best trained in the entire SyAAF. Large and powerful the MiG-25 could challenge Israeli IDF-AF incursions as the Foxbat can reach altitudes of over 70,000 ft at speeds over Mach-3. MiG-25 RBs based in Syrian flew reconnaissance missions over Israel well into the 1990s. Even with weapons, the MiG-25PD (normally restricted to around Mach-2.8) can reach speeds in excess of Mach-3 in an emergency. The Foxbat’s historical combat record (with all operators) has only recently begun to be known to the West.
(SyAAF MiG-25RB / Tom Cooper)

23-Mar 2014: A SyAAF MiG-23MF or MiG-23BN was shot down near the Turkish/Syrian border possibly by Turkish F-16s. Pilot (Thabet Abdo Ismail) ejected and interviewed on Syrian television.

(SyAAF MiG-29A / Tom Cooper)
[Above] SyAAF MiG-29 has increasingly been pressed into service in the ground attack role. The SyAAF originally acquired 48 MiG-29A and UB (two-seat trainers) in the late 1980s. The current disposition of the Syrian MiG-29 fleet is been difficult to assess with certainty. Stay tuned.

21-Mar 2013: In the middle, a Russian/Ukrainian crisis dramatic new footage appears out of Syria. SyAAF MiG-23 and MiG-29 attack the Ahrar ash-Sham (Islamic Front) after 'Base 559' is overrun near ar-Ruhhaybah. The SyAAF aircraft are operating with full knowledge of no MANPAD threat.

This murderous civil war goes on without end. The magnitude of human suffering has been monstrous.

13-Feb 2013: reports on non-Syrian pilots being used by the regime to fly CAS. This is unconfirmed. Tension(s) between the Syrian Army and Hezbollah units are reportedly increasing leading to noncooperation with Hezbollah fighters.

02-Feb 2014: We may have a ceasefire in Homs. If this is true - this is extremely significant. See link.

As Geneva II talks proceed - the killing continues. Here a massive SyAAF air strike on Daraya, Rif Dimashq on 30-Jan 2014:

Possible ceasefire plan in the works see link. We remain skeptical however anything that stops the killing even for a short period - is welcome. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Use of FROG missiles by the regime has now been documented. FROG class weapon employment should be part of any war crimes evidence against Assadists in Syria:

[Below] 27-Dec 2013: What appears to be a pair of Israeli F-15s near Qatana (which is some 12 km from the Lebanese border). The aircraft in question could be inside Lebanese airspace or made a shallow penetration into Syrian airspace. Undoubtedly a reconnaissance sortie due to clear weather.

[Above] 02-Nov 13: Propaganda video appeared depicting the Saudi supported Jaish al-Islam ("the Army of Islam") operating to two (2) ex-government L-39ZA light attack jets after Kshesh Air Base was overrun in February. Four (4) L-39s may have survived government airstrikes after the base was lost. [Below] In a possible related development (16-Nov 2013) a rather remarkable video of a green-nosed SyAAF MiG-23MF fighter in action using full reheat/afterburner (with expendables) possibly searching for the Jaish al-Islam L-39 aircraft. There have also been increased tensions on the Syria/Turkish border.

[Above] This image surfaced last week as part of a series of photos of what appears to be Russian paratroopers, possibly from the 45th Reconnaissance Regiment. Faces were published unblurred(?) Units from the 45th saw action in Chechnya and South Ossetia. We are unable to make out the serial number of the SyAAF Su-24MK in the background.

31-Oct 13: Reportedly Israel strikes Russian weapons shipment in Syria. Possibly SA-3s. If it was Israel it most likely used its AGM-142 "Popeye" stand-off attack missiles once again.

Iranian behavior should not come as a complete surprise. Both countries signed a mutual defense agreement in 2006.

[Below] The first SyAAF MiG-29 is documented in its first official appearance conducting attack sorties over Damascus. Why the type has been pressed into service is unclear. Perhaps it is because the (now) unlikely chance of western airstrikes over CW. MiG-29 is a short-range point-defense fighter with air-to-ground capabilities. We are not observing any behavior by SyAAF aircraft indicating a MANPAD threat. Aircraft appear to simply fly above (out of range) of opposition AAA guns.

In another development [below] Kurdish ATGMs hit Jihadist armor! Incredible. We have been wondering for months when we would start seeing footage clearly showing government-opposition forces fighting one another. Jihadist forces have induced a three-front war: with Assadist, with secular FSyA, and with the Kurds [what remains of those identified as the FSyA are fighting on two fronts against Assadist and Jihadist. Also in this clip we are spared from listening to endless chanting of “Allahu Akbar!” and to be frank - it is refreshing. The US should take a serious look at assisting the Kurds.
[Above] Kurdish female fighters taking on Jihadist forces in Syria. We have got to support the Kurds in this. Articles and photos here and here and here.
For some time now we find ourselves supporting neither side in this horrific war. The sheer toll in human suffering defies comprehension (with over 100,000 dead and perhaps 5 million displaced both in and outside Syria). Assad is a monster who thinks his family has the right to shoot, bomb, and gas its way to victory while the opposition has degenerated into a mishmash of Jihadist fighters (with support from Gulf States) hell-bent on plunging Syria back to 11th century. Somehow a ceasefire (as in the Balkans) seems the only hope for people of Syria. Any western airstrike (zero chance now) would need to hit Assad and opposition Jihadist forces - at the same time. Currently, the only recourse for the west is to assist refugees and to document and identify those to be apprehended for war crimes. An exceedingly unsatisfying prospect while the killing goes on - and on - and on. Having said that, the Kurds appear to have emerged as the best bet for western military assistance.  Securing Syrian chemical weapons remains more urgent than ever. 

Russian support for Assad and the other proxy elements supporting various sides in the Syrian Civil War is really about the future of gas pipeline route(s) to the EU?

The FSyA says is will not attend a new round of peace talks scheduled for 22-Jan 2014 in Geneva. This is unfortunate. We think Nobel laureate F. W. De Klerk would be an ideal choice as chief ceasefire negotiator.

The assertions by RT on the events of 21-Aug are almost absurd. The night of 21-Aug one can hear rocket after rocket being fired (eerie howl and then detonations). CW employment requires sufficient rounds on target for effect. So one or two Jihadists or others firing a few 140mm rockets does not gas 1400 people. Neither Jihadist nor anyone else has ever used CW in 10 years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, nor has Hezbollah in 2006 against Israel. Neither has Iran. So the idea that foreign fighters brought their own CW into Syria is simply not supported by historical evidence.  If the Russian Federation cannot come to a reasoned assessment on events in Syria then its position as a permanent member on the UN Security Council is undermined. So we thank Russia for its plan to remove all WMD from Syria. The sooner the better. 

Russia has privately concluded regarding 21-Aug: a) Assad ordered the attack, b) someone in his military ordered the attack. c) Assad has lost control of (some) CW to opposition forces. So controlling-destroying Assads CW arsenal is the only real course of action remaining. Assadists (or anyone else) attempting to gas their way to victory would have it documented in moments and images available worldwide - in a sea of smartphones.  WMDs are political weapons -  not military options.

16-Sept 2013: UN report confirms that a Sarin nerve-gas attack occurred on 21-Aug in Damascus. Also confirmed was one type of surface-to-surface rocket documented on the Boresight (and elsewhere) used to employ Sarin nerve-gas to murder over 1000 people. August-21 will be remembered as a dark day for humanity. We strongly advocate that the perpetrators be identified and indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Start with this video. Who are the uniformed personnel in red berets?

[Below] 16-Sept 13: Turkey announced it downed a Syrian Mi-17 helicopter that strayed 2 km over the border into turkey. The Mi-17 was at 14,500 ft and crashed 1 km within Syria. Parachute observed.

14-Sept 13: Rebel leaders attempt to throttle their proxies into direct military strikes against Assad.

11-Sept 13 Jobar, Outside Damascus. New reports of chemical weapons use. Unconfirmed. See link. Pro-rebel D.C. expert sacked for misrepresentation of credentials and facts.

A crease fire in Syria is urgently required. If indeed more CW use has occurred now in Jobar then WMDs are 'loose' in Syria and being used repeatedly. The situation (this war) is spinning out of control. A ceasefire is required.

11-Sept 13: U.N. Report will finger Assad regime for chemical large-scale weapons attack of 21-Aug 13.

09-Sept 13: Obama: Syria proposal from Russia is 'potentially positive'. Obama remains skeptical but states he prefers a diplomatic solution rather than a military strike on Syria in response to a ghastly Sarin nerve gas attack 21-Aug on a Damascus suburb that killed nearly 1500 men, women, and children. The attack has rocked the international community and has initiated a sequence of events whose outcome remains uncertain.

08-Sept 13: RAF Typhoon and Turkish F-16s were scrambled over Cyprus after a 'Probe Sortie' (measuring the reaction of defenses) of two SyAAF Su-24 (air-interdiction/attack) aircraft was detected.

In a time where smartphone imagery is available worldwide in moments...the days of unrestrained behavior (by anyone) appear to be finished.

06-Sept 13: Government MiG-21 is hit in the port wing by AAA and is venting fuel. Location unknown:

02-Sept 2013; After the United States Congress votes on whether (or not) to proceed with a military response to the event on 21-Aug in Syria - we will spawn a new post as was done in 2011.

03-Sept 13: SyAADF 'BUK-M2E' air defense system on the move at Mazze AFB in broad daylight. Indeed all manner of Syrian assets will be on the move to keep American-Allied target planners off balance. This includes Syrians gutting and removing sensitive equipment from their fixed installations. There is something else 'big' and 'green' under a shelter in the foreground at playback 0:24 but we are unable to discern what.

We would prefer that the true goal of any policy and actions by the US or a 'coalition of the willing' - must (must) be to enable the conditions for productive peace talks and a halt to the fighting. Any CW response and/or military escalation must set absolute conditions predicated on forcing the FSyA and the Assad regime into a ceasefire and direct talks. The madness and butchery that is the Syrian Civil War has now spun out-of-control with the introduction of CW use on repeated occasion. If the threat of force by US/France causes Assad to pause, withhold or put away his CW munitions - then one could (also) say this threat has already improved the CW calculus on the ground. However, stopping the war through a ceasefire and talks must be US policy. Ideally, those responsible for CW use should be handed over to the ICC (International Criminal Court).
28-Aug 2013: This still [above] is from a video [below] has appeared of the ‘mystery weapon’ being fired – consistent with munitions and may be associated with large-scale chemical agent use in Syria on 21-Aug. It is indeed similar in layout to the British 60 lb rocket - with the weapon in the video being much larger. The mystery round can be clearly observed (in the back of an orange-red truck) before being fitted into its launch tube (white truck). Note the personnel in the video. They are uniformed troops some wearing red berets. The best-educated guess' are members of the 405th SF Artillery Battalion using a 333mm 'Falaq-2' launcher. The gentleman in a red-orange jacket or shirt, yellow ball-cap, and khaki pants - should also be a person of interest regarding this munition. Where-when this firing was recorded is unknown as the CW attack on the 21-Aug occurred at night.

  • Whitehouse Press Release on the issue of CW use in Syria.
  • The horrors keep coming. From the BBC. Graphic Warning.
  • Some suggest that Assad is losing control of his military - see here.
  • Another report on Russia and Saudi Arabia on Syria.
  • A ceasefire and peace talks need to get started regardless of difficulty.
  • Video of Obama addressing the world and US actions in response to CW use in Syria on 21-Aug.
  • Russia detects ballistic rockets fired from the central part of the Mediterranean.
  • Russia pushes out delivery of S-300 air defense system for Syria until 2014.
  • [U.S.] Senate bill would give Syria 45 days to sign chemical weapons ban.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin writes OP-ED in the New York Times on Syria. Remarkable.
  • UN report on the chemical gas attack of 21-Aug.
[Above] Still from video of 06-Sept. SyAAF MiG-21 is hit in the port wing by AAA. 

01-Sept 13: US Navy carrier strike group was ordered to the Red Sea. This includes the 11th Carrier Air Wing (CVW-11) operating off the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).
(File: USN Nimitz-Class)

[Below] 02-Sept 13; SyAAF MiG-21 goes down over Deir EzZour. It may have been hit by rebel fire or just as likely - had a mechanical or pilot problem. A second government jet was claimed shot down somewhere over Qalamoon. Below is the crash in Deir EzZour [Video account terminated]:

Damascus: 27-Aug 13: Heavy fighting and heavy use of the Yugoslav M-79 anti-tank bazooka on regime armor. Even after two years of fighting - government forces seem to have an endless supply of MBTs (tanks) and BMPs (armored personnel carriers).

[Below] 27-Aug 2013:  An American E-4B Command and Control aircraft caught on the ground by a photographer at  Incirlik, Turkey. Perhaps the behind-the-scene preparations for military action over Syria are more pervasive than being communicated.
[Below ] A US-Navy E-6B ‘Mercury’ was reported spotted off the coast of the UK  possibly en-route to the Mediterranean. The E-6 is used to relay instructions to USN submarines and seats 23.
[Below] A WC-135 was reported over the Mediterranean 28-Aug 13. It serves as an aerial collection platform for the US Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC). It seats 33.
With a civil war in Syria grinding through into its second year and as the Assad family and the Alawite minority attempt to retain the status quo by the use of heavy force, the probability of a wider conflict has increased and is increasing.  We sensed something was seriously afoot before Hezbollah directly entered the fighting. Now it appears Iran will as well? Therefore we have elected to publish additional writing here. Things could get even more complicated very quickly.

[Below] 25-Aug 13: Below This video is incorrectly labeled. SyAAF aircraft (likely a MiG-23BN) is hit by a rebel MANPAD and aircraft landing-drag-chute comes off – not the pilot ejection chute. Aircraft likely escapes.

Indeed as of 21-Aug 13, it appears there has been another larger chemical-agent attack occurring outside Damascus in the early morning. Video here [NYT] and here may show ordnance behavior consistent with chemical munitions. But this remains unconfirmed as of yet. Civilian casualty figures range from hundreds to over 1000 including scores of women and children. The accusations, denials, and recriminations are already flying. The war may take a dramatic turn if this scale of chemical weapon use - is verified. However, that verification can be difficult.

The question might be can not the United States verify chemical weapons use with satellites or CW sniffing drones over Syria? While we're not certain about the first question – the second question is no. This is because you can not use drones over countries that do not want your drones in their airspace that have any type of air force or integrated air defense. Your drones get shot down. Drones can only operate in any useful way if A) with permission by the nation. B) Fighter escort-CAP. C) Countries without integrated air defenses or air forces.

28-Aug 13: The UN security council is now taking up probable heavier-scale use of CW in Syria.

[Below] 22-Aug 2013 Eastern district Damascus: This is the weapon of interest. It is of unknown origin so could be produced in Syria. Information on chemical munitions is not easy to research in the public sphere as globally these class of weapons are kept away from public view. Had it been a high explosive round the rocket body would not have remained intact (unless a dud) or it a low yield dispersal round consistent with CW delivery. A similar munition was filmed by rebels in Daraya, south-west Damascus 04-Jan 2013.
[Above] It may have similarities in layout to the old [below] British 60lb air-to-ground rocket - with the weapon in Syria being perhaps larger and with 6 tail-fins. The Syrian rocket has a round collar at the back enclosing part of the fin assembly consistent with Russian/Soviet designs. Indeed see first video at top of post.
(British 3-inch rocket with 60lb warhead)
The war has taken on monstrous proportions in human suffering and death, producing over one million now exceeding two million refugees and a death toll upwards of 90,000 - now exceeding 100,000. Though peace talks have (had) been proposed for July in Geneva - it has come to nothing.

[11-Sept 13: Now talks are back on the front burner, after Parliament in the UK and US Congress rebuffed a military-only option.]

Very interesting video of a Chechen member of the Jaish al-Muhajireen al-Ansar (ISIS unit) describing the results of one of local battles near Lattakia dated early August 2013 [Video account terminated]

Anti-Assad Jihadi groups the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al- Nusra (JAN) have attempted an offensive against the Kurds in the north of the country. The Kurdish YPG militias launched a counter-offensive to sweep Jihadi elements out. Jihadis have already killed secular rebel FySA (Free Syrian Army) commanders. Conversely, ISIS provided a Saudi national suicide bomber who drove and detonated a BMP filled with 3 tons of explosives to help take rebels to take Menegh Air Base.

As of 11-Aug 13 the SyAAF is extremely active the last 2-3 days, flying many sorties. SyAAF airpower so far is intense enough to halt anti-government forces (according to AJE) advance down the coast. Targeting included:
  • Districts of Homs held by insurgents are heavily hit (nearly 30 deaths reported there since Saturday).
  • ar-Raqqah was hit at least five times in the last 24 hours.
  • Heavy airstrikes are in progress against villages in Lattakia Province taken during anti-Assad offensive there the last week.
  • Binesh in Idlib Province heavily hit yesterday.
[Above] This photograph (re)surfaced in late July 2013 as part of a series of SyAAF MiG-29s and appears to be authentic. It is now understood as likely taken in 2010 during a Syrian air show. What is of particular interest here is the white missile-launch-rail. It is consistent with AKU-170 – that fires the R-77 (AA-12) missile. The R-77 is a modern Russian fire-and-forget weapon equivalent to the American AIM-120.

Su-24MK photographed over Talbiseh 15-Aug 2013. Video link dead, above is another video of a Syrian Fencer. [Below] No.819 Squadron has some 12-15 operational Su-24 aircraft yet have flown no less than 258 sorties primarily over Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, and Dayr az-Zawr Provinces. There is no indication of a diminished tempo of operations. Su-24s sorties have actually now increased (increased) because of increased availability of the type.
Other SyAAF operational sortie counts include approximately: 170 (L-39s), 590 (MiG-21s), 412 (MiG-23s), and 532 (Su-22s). Whatever Obama’s views of SyAAF (pilot) proficiency – the SyAAF gains greater operational proficiency every time they fly.

The belligerents in Syria proper are being backed directly and indirectly by proxy elements.

Supporting Assad in various forms is Russia, Hezbollah, and Iran. Fighting against the Assadists is the FSyA (Free Syrian Army) supported in various forms by the United States, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. Jihadist groups have also involved the fighting against Assad although not in unison with Syrian rebels.

Indeed - BEIRUT, 12-July (Reuters) Syrian rebels said the assassination of one of their top commanders by al Qaeda-linked militants was tantamount to a declaration of war, opening a new front for the Western-backed fighters.]

Israel backed by the United States has stuck Syria three (3) times with airstrikes since the Syrian civil war began (reportedly to halt SAM shipments to Hezbollah) - and has now threatened to attack a Russian shipment of S-300 air-defense system(s) or the systems themselves. These threats force Washington to give greater direct support to rebels.

If a No-Fly Zone is attempted by the United States and others – then we are at war with Syria and by de facto also at war by proxy with those supporting the Syrian government.

We would remind the reader that Russia has offered and may yet put troops on the Golan?

US policy should be aimed at helping to set conditions for productive talks in Geneva. Uniformed US military personnel deployed just outside Syrian borders and in refugee camps armed only with medicine, stethoscopes, food, and water - might be more powerful weapons - than any No-Fly-Zone.

16-Jun 2013: Various sources reporting that Iran is to send the first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to aid President Assad forces. This is still unconfirmed.

15-Jun 2013: Russia warns that any effort by the United States and others to impose a no-fly zone over Syria would violate international law. Russia’s foreign minister also said that evidence of Syrian chemical weapons use cited by the U.S. (France and Britain) does not meet the requirements of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Excellent story on a little-reported aspect of the conflict by the Washington Post.

14-Jun 2013: U.S. military proposal for arming Syrian rebels also calls for a limited no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced from Jordan. "Military planners believe it would be dangerous to set up a major operation inside Jordan to arm the rebels without creating a no-fly zone to hold Syrian aircraft back."

13-Jun 2013 [CNN]: The United States announces that the Syrian government has (has) used Sarin chemical warfare agents on a small scale in Syria's civil war. American cable media outlets are asserting that the rebels have only AK-47s and light arms against Assad tanks and air force. Anyone who follows this blog or this issue closely - knows this is an exaggeration. We've seen countless videos and photographs of rebels with heavy weapons. Having said that - with the insertion of Hezbollah forces into the war, rebels are now under grave threat in Aleppo.
[Above] 15-May 2013: This rebel T-55 has an ATGM (anti-tank guided missile) whiz over the top of it. It is quickly motioned off the rise. The tank crew lucky to be alive.
[Above] Russian photo of Su-24 munition options that include all manner of free-fall and drag-retarded iron bombs, cluster munitions, rocket pods, and precision-guided rounds. The Su-24 is a swing-wing air-interdiction/strike aircraft with a crew of two (2) in the same class as the Panavia Tornado and General Dynamics F-111. [When this class of aircraft operate at high speed and low level, they are almost impossible to hit.] Syria has received the 'export' version of the Fencer with "downgraded" capability -  nonetheless SyAAF Su-24s remain powerful machines.
[Above/Below] Syria has used her small number of Su-24MKs to pound rebel positions, cities, and level neighborhoods. Death toll estimates have been horrific, perhaps as high as 93,000 to date. The Su-24 has faced increasing threats from rebel MANPAD and heavy AAA - however, has simply responded with higher speed attacks (see video below) - for which rebels have effectively no defense:

Thankfully during the Libyan civil war, government Su-24s were not observed operating to their full potential - and one was lost over Ras Lanuf to rebel AAA. In Syria, the SyAAF is equipped and trained to confront Israel - and so (unfortunately) SyAAF operational proficiency with this aircraft - will be much better - and improving. One SyAAF Su-24 was lost in March 2012. However [below] we now have video documenting the use the PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) by SyAAF Su-24s. This is leveraging Fencer capabilities to a much greater degree than was seen in Lybia:
[Above] 13-Jun 2012: Rebels with a Chinese-made 'FN-6' MANPAD, Aleppo.

03-Jun 2013: United States is sending Patriot SAM battery and twenty (20) F-16 fighters to Jordan for exercises. Some number F-16C aircraft and maintenance crews were deployed from the 140th Wing Air National Guard unit out of Buckley AFB (Colo) to participate in Exercise 'Eager Lion 2013'. Scheduled for two weeks, the exercise will reportedly involve 15,000 personnel from 18 countries including Bahrain, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon (Lebanon??), Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, UAE, as the UK. Israel will not participate. Jordan has hosted two 'Eager Lion' exercises in June 2011 and May 2012.


The US says it may keep F-16s in Jordan to counter the threat(s) posed by Syria's civil war. Lieutenant Colonel T.G. Taylor: "In order to enhance the defensive posture and capacity of Jordan, some of these assets may remain beyond the exercise at the request of the Government of Jordan"

Regardless if Assad gets his S-300 air defense system(s) a no-fly zone inside Syria would be a perfect mission for the American F-22A? with no need for SAM suppression assets? Quote: "Dominating the Skies. Overwhelming the Threat."...more likely the assertions from F-22 proponents are complete nonsense. F-22 will require all manner of other EW aircraft to operate in conjunction over Syria.
(photo: file)
In another development, MiG (Российская самолетостроительная корпорация МиГ) formerly called  Mikoyan-and-Gurevich Design Bureau has announced it will deliver possibly up to 24 new MiG-29 M/M2 (Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-29) fighters to Syria for a contract was reportedly signed back in 2007. Mig-29M/M2 are closer to MiG-29SMT in terms of avionics, weapons, and capabilities minus pronounced dorsal hump or in-flight refueling probe. MiG-29 'M' variants also have upgraded RD-33MK Klimov smokeless engines (engine soot was a long-time complaint and understood as a tactical disadvantage as soot can be seen at a great distance) and have higher thrust ratings. No Syrian MiG-29s have (yet) been observed in use by the SyAAF in the war. Though the aircraft theoretically could be thrown into the fighting, the Syrians are holding all MiG-29 'fighters' in reserve in the event of direct foreign/western intervention employing sustained air power.

Surely 'Eager Lion 2013' will be viewed with trepidation as have S-300 delivery announcements.
[Above]  Possible new MiG-29M/M2 being readied for Syria.
[Above] MiG-29 M2 at Aero India in 2005.
[Above] MiG-29 SMT. [Below] Photos of SyAAF MiG-29s from a Syrian air show in 2010.

[Below] What Russian English-language news is reporting:

[Below] FSyA reconnaissance of Abu Dhour (Kweres) AFB. Row of MiG-23 can be seen.

[Below] Rebel MBT hits a huge LNG (liquefied natural gas) storage tank.

[Below] Compilation of urban fighting apparently from Darayya. Graphic warning!

T-72AV “T-74” and the first armored Bulldozer we have seen - of the 4th Division in Barzeh:

Damascus: Liwa al-Islam is on advance. It appears they have accrued a better part of a company from the 4th Division. This includes at least 150 Milans, Kornets, and Konkurs ATGM rounds. Some sources claim Assad's own thugs sold the heavy armor to the Liwa al-Islam.

[Above] Our apologies for this video with music. The original video without any music was account terminated. 

Rebel heavy armor moving in broad daylight [above] like this Liwa al-Islam's column near Damascus – can not (not) be a good indicator for the SyAAF ability to respond to events on the ground. MANPAD proliferation and at least one documented SA-8 capture [below] within rebel ranks has exacerbated the problem(s) for Assad air power.

ACIG: “major development in most of northern Syria is an offensive of the JAN (Jabhat al- Nusra ) and ISIS  (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ) against Kurdish-held areas, and a Kurdish counteroffensive against JAN and the ISIS. 

The YPG is calling Kurds to 'raise against Islamists', its offensive in northern Syria is continued. The YPG reported 'freeing another village' in Tel Abyad area (this should be Bir Kitik, SW from the town), and that the Islamists there are 'besieged, desperate and low on ammunition. 

The JAN and the ISIS are concentrating a large number of fighters in the Sarrin village, south of Kobani, apparently with the intention to ease the siege of Tel Abyad. They have already attacked the village of Xelo (4km S of Serkaniye), but the YPG forced them to retreat by destroying one of JAN's vehicles. The YPG then launched a local counteroffensive and is reportedly in the process of cleaning the Islamists out of the area (for the start, they should have already secured two villages south of Serkaniye, along the road to Hassaka). 

The JAN and the ISIS have captured the town of Tel Aran, SW of Aleppo, surrounded the village of Tel Hassel, and killed 8 fighters from Jabhat al-Akrad in the course of the fighting there. Local activists report that the Islamists have kidnapped more than 200 Kurdish civilians from this area and beheaded some 17 so far. 

Reportedly, Turkey closed its border to JAN and ISIS meaning: their reinforcements can't enter Syria, nor leave. Kurds are also reporting that in Tal Kocher area the Islamists are already 'so desperate' that they started using suicide bombers. Makes one wonder what was the deal between Erdogan and Kurds? 

According to AFP Report from Tuesday (30-July 13), Iran and Syria have come to an agreement by which Tehran will supply Damascus with US$3 Billion worth of oil on loan. Supposedly, Tehran expects Damascus to repay the cost of the oil 'through Iranian Investments of various kinds in Syria'.

In addition, Menngh AB may fall soon through the southern gate."

The regime calls in CAS (close air support) to pound rebel positions but perhaps too little too late. Here, an Su-22. The SyAAF has also been known to hit whatever remains of value in a base being overrun to keep equipment from capture by rebels.

SyAAF Mi-8 helicopters at Menegh AB after the base fell to rebels (Jihadi group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or 'ISIS') on 06-Aug 13. Whether any of these examples are flyable is unknown. To date, rebels have shown no propensity to employ captured aircraft as we saw in Libya (see update on this 02-Nov).
[Below] 09-Sept 13: Government repositioning of 9K33M-class OSA (NATO: SA8-Gecko) SAM system at Mezzeh AFB:

11-Sept 13: Maloula. A terrifying sequence showing rebels caught out in the open by SyAAF Mi-25 Hind. To date, we know of not a single (single) government Mi-25 being lost to enemy fire or MANPADs in this 2.5-year civil war. The heavy AA guns mounted on trucks will do little to bring down a Hind.

If peace talks again fail, the stage is set for a widening and lengthening of this war - and even more Death by Proxy.

Your thoughts?

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  1. And the US is to get involved in that briar patch because of...something. It's important. To the stability of the area. And Iran/Saudi/Jordan/et al. Or something. And we have a red line that's been crossed. Not our red line, but the WORLD'S red line, see? Chemical weapons!
    Both sides of the conflict are well-armed, but the organization and discipline might be wanting, along with clear understandings of intent (other than killing the enemy). What is the status of re-supply and training? Any word on silent partnerships from proxy regimes? There is some major gaming afoot, and what we see is not the agenda.

  2. Hi Dan,
    What we are told is the US is to punish Assad for violation the international system (Geneva Convention) and the use of CW by military force.

    Surely there are more effective methods using creative diplomacy that lurching for US military combat power?

    At a minimum we need to see vigorous diplomacy for a ‘ceasefire’ bolted onto the front-end of any talk of using military power.

    Because of the War Power Act the President can (in the end) do what he wants.

    Remember “military action to hit regime targets” is what Obama said he has already (already) decided.

    So we must make the vigorous case for ceasefire/talks before (before) he orders military action.

    A ceasefire stops all (all) the killing – including that by chemical weapons and will have much better chance of international support.

    A ceasefire in Syria is an authentic response:

    1) to the horror of chemical weapon use on 21-Aug.
    2) to the likelihood CW use escalation in the future in Syria.
    3) to Violation(s) of the Geneva Convention (by all sides in Syria).
    4) that pushes out or halts “a need” for military action.
    5) that uses the international system (of multilateral negotiation) to protect the international system (and Geneva).

  3. No question about your response: A ceasefire would allow resolution of the thorny problems confronting all parties in the conflict. No noise from any public source on the topic, but mayhaps some move is afoot behind the scenes. None of that explains a threat by Syria to the US or it's interests.

    The War Powers Act is another issue altogether but for now it is what it is.

    Close eye on the proceedings, and thank you for the response

  4. Turkey has downed a Syrian Helicopter near the border, Deputy Prime Minister said.

    There is also a video in another news site (in Turkish)

    It is strange that a parachute is shown in the video claiming the pilot(s) had ejected.

  5. The international "red line" the chemical weapons got everybodies attention. And the combined effort of both western powers and Russia forced Asad to abandon CW usage and will hopefully result in securing all of Asad's arsenal and production facilities of CW. On the other hand tens of thousands of people are dying in Syria not because of chemical weapons or conventional weapons but because of malturation, lack of medicine etc. because there is no effective humanitarian aid to Syria, and no international support for that. World leaders can force Asad to allow unobscured humanitarian aid coridors to Syria but they don't. It seems that children dying because of hunger or wounded people getting no medical attention is not a "red line" for international community. We live in a cold world.

  6. A Turkish f-16 downed a mig-23, Pilot is safe and claims no airspace violation took place. Kasab (where the plane was shot) is the last bordergate hold by Asad forces.

  7. So what happens if Assad is taken out by US AirPower? Which one of the hundreds of rebel factions fills the vacuum? I don't want to sound pessimistic but there's no moderate rebel faction. These 'moderate' rebels may have sold the American journalists (the ones beheaded) to ISIS/L.
    We have to be careful or this will be the next Somalia or Libya (just look at how wonderfully those air strikes turned out). I think Israel might prefer Assad in power than to have a failed state right next to it borders.



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