Small Wars Journal

Obama Versus Putin: The Making of Another Great Power Proxy War in the Quicksand of Syria

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 2:57am

Obama Versus Putin: The Making of Another Great Power Proxy War in the Quicksand of Syria

Ehsan M. Ahrari

The United States has announced that its Special Forces will participate in ground operations in Syria against ISIS.  That announcement contradicts President Barack Obama’s previous assurances that there would be no American forces participating in ground operations.  Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter went beyond the aforementioned statement by noting that such Special Forces operations would increase in the future.  Is President Obama breaking his frequently iterated promise of no troops on the ground, or is it just a crucial tactical adjustment?  Has he quietly reached a moment of desperation whereby he sees his promise of “no boots on the ground” has been overcome by events (OBEs); or has he decided to outdo Russian President Vladimir Putin in his own determination to take drastic action to save the regime of Bashar al-Assad?  At this point, Obama’s decision appears to include factors mentioned in both questions.  Putin, for his part, seems to have forgotten that military involvement in a Muslim country may turn out to be too costly for Russia.  He seems to have forgotten the lessons of the Afghan war of the 1980s.

Things are not going well for the United States in Syria.  Despite its heavy reliance on air power (as an alternative to committing ground troops) to degrade and then eradicate ISIS, the latter has yet to lose its effectiveness.  The United States decided to rely on recruiting, training, and equipping the so-called moderate Islamists to fight ISIS.  It originally allocated $580 million to train and equip those individuals.  But the chief restriction imposed on those recruits was that they would only engage in fighting ISIS and not the Assad regime.     

To Washington’s dismay, much of the US-supplied equipment and vehicles quickly fell into the hands of Al-Nusra (an al-Qaeda affiliate).  The next twist in the policy, according to the Wall Street Journal, was, instead of training the moderate rebels, it was also to equip them.  The “equip” part of the program was to be “dramatically reduced to providing weapons to some 5,000 friendly moderate Syrian rebels to carry on the fight against both ISIS and presumably, against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.” Senator John McCain was spot-on when he observed that the Obama administration’s insistence that rebels fight only against ISIS was a “fundamental flaw.”

The greatest American hesitation has been about providing heavy equipment to the anti-ISIS forces.  Sadly, from Washington’s perspective, the pro-American Syrian insurgents have not impressed the American advisors with their fighting capabilities.  In addition, their loyalty to the American objectives of ridding the country of ISIS first conflicted with the Syrian insurgents’ own intense desire to defeat pro-regime forces first.

The US-Turkish alliance also suffers from intricate problems of its own.  Turkey remains focused on ousting Assad first, but it also remains acutely worried about enabling the Kurdish forces to emerge as an effective fighting force.  Ankara has also remained vexed about the possibilities that the territories liberated by the Kurdish forces are likely to become an integral part of Kurdistan, which is the dream of Kurds of all political stripes.  Thus, “Turkey appears to be actively working at direct odds with U.S. anti-ISIS strategy, having attacked Kurdish groups in Syria—the same groups that the United States recently armed and counts among its ‘capable partners’….”

The United States, on the contrary, has a high degree of trust in the commitment of the Kurdish forces to fight, degrade, and destroy ISIS.  However, it has to be careful about not antagonizing the government of President Recep Erdogan.  Thus, while the Kurds are fighting ISIS, they are also frequently targeted by the Turkish Air Force.  That is also one more reason why the United States is careful about not increasing the fighting capabilities of the Kurdish forces by supplying them with heavy equipment.  There is a great possibility that those arms might also be used against the Turkish forces.

America’s other problem is that no Arab country is ready or willing to commit its ground troops to the Syrian theater of operations.  As much as everyone claims to despise ISIS and its ghastly tactics, no Arab regime is willing to commit ground forces and then becoming a powerful target of ISIS global propaganda that it is killing Sunni Muslims.

Russia has studied the modalities of America’s involvement in Iraq and Syria within a Machiavellian framework.  If the United States were to be effective in defeating or at least substantially weakening ISIS forces in either of those countries, Russia would have stayed out of the fray.  However, President Obama’s overly cautious approach—indeed, his sustained refusal to commit ground troops to Syria or Iraq—has provided Russia with a superb window of opportunity.  Putin fired his opening salvo on behalf of Bashara Assad in September 2013, when the latter violated Obama’s declared “red line” by using chemical weapons.  As the United States was poised to take limited military action against the Assad regime as punishment, Putin came up with the suggestion that Assad transfer the ownership of his chemical weapons stock to an outside body.  The United States readily accepted that palpably sensible proposition.  However, the Russian President had an ambitious agenda up his sleeve.  He operates as a believer of that old adage: Nature abhors a vacuum (Horror vacui).   

Undoubtedly, Russia has been looking for a long-term, if not a permanent, presence in the Middle East, since its ouster from Egypt by President Anwar Sadat in 1972.  It has a naval base in Syria, but the potential ouster of Assad from power would have permanently closed that facility.  As an integral aspect of his profound desire to reestablish Russia as one of the great powers to have a major say in the future power plays in the Middle East, Putin needed an even a larger Russian presence.  He has already made significant overtures by reaching out to the Egyptian dictator, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in the form of arms sales, and promises of further boosting that aspect of Russo-Egyptian ties in the future.  Russia has been well on its way to filling that vacuum.

Putin asserted Russia’s influence in Syria with a bang.  He sent bombers to Syria ostensibly for bombing ISIS; however, in reality, he started targeting the US-backed Syrian insurgents, who were already facing an uphill battle because of America’s legalistic requirement of vetting them first, training them, and only then supplying them with light weapons.  On the contrary, Putin instantly went after the US-backed insurgents for the explicit purpose of weakening or even eradicating them.  That was the most assured way of saving the Assad regime, according to his calculations.  Bombing ISIS was only his secondary objective, especially considering the fact that the Iranian Quds forces and Hezbollah were already carrying the heavy baggage of fighting ISIS.

Putin plan seems to be working for him, at least for now.  Russia has emerged as a major player.  He has already entered into negotiations with the United States, Iran, and Saudi Arabia over the future of Syria.  The Saudis themselves have approached Moscow to inquire about the modalities of the post-Assad era, a topic that is most irrelevant to Putin as long as Russia and Iran have an upper-hand in the Syrian theater of operations.  More to the point, Putin has managed to elevate his country as a coequal of the United States, as the American and Russia military officials have started regularly coordinating their air attack plans to eliminate any potential for a mishap.

The Obama administration has maintained that it has no intention of deploying ground troops in Syria.  Thus, the decision to insert a small number of US Special Forces is merely a tactical adjustment.  As President Obama is becoming increasingly focused on his legacy of not becoming a party to another war in Syria, Putin seems to have calculated that the path to Russia’s advantage leads through the battlefields of Syria, especially while Moscow’s ally, Iran, is bearing the major brunt of the ground fight and the resultant losses in its war against ISIS.

The Syrian conflict has all the markings of transforming itself into another proxy war between two major powers a la the Afghanistan war of the 1980s.  One feature of that war materialized when Putin decided to plunge his country into the Syrian quagmire.  The ghosts of the Afghan war are awakening in the battlefields of Syria, when one considers the fact that heavy weapons are once again emerging as the game changer of winning that conflict.  While reports surged that the Russian bombing decimated the heavy weapons used by ISIS fighters, there was also a report that the United States and Saudi Arabia were supplying heavy weapons to pro-US forces.  In the meantime, 55 Saudi Wahhabi clerics have declared a Jihad against the Russian forces.  As consummate practitioners of Machiavellian power game, one can be rest assured that Putin’s advisors are busy calculating the long-term implications of their boss’ decision to plunge them into the quicksand of Syria.

About the Author(s)


Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 10:11am

In this proxy war we urgently need a serious discussion on the role of the Russia FSB and the Iranian IRGC in their collusion with IS and the role of Assad in actually colluding with IS. Not the least--- what has been the role of Turkey in supporting IS.

Notice that even with the Putin publicly declared goal of attacking IS he attacks only those that actually are rebelling against Assad and have a track record of actually attacking IS.

Now #Russia'n airstrikes hit rebel held towns & villages in northern #Aleppo along frontline with #IslamicState

BUT NOTICE not a single bomb on IS positions--only on those that are actually attacking both IS and Assad----AND there is no Russian collusion???

Example--is this not exactly what IS stated in their public statement claiming the Paris attack...

BREAKING: Bashar Assad says Paris attacks are a result of France's foreign policy.(Via AFP)

I don't recall Bashar Assad saying the attack on the Russian plane was a result of Russia's foreign policy.

Just few days ago, Syrian Gen. Mohd Issa threatened to target France's aircraft carrier if approached Syria's coast!

Assad regime Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun threatening Europe & America with suicide bombers not long ago.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 1:25am

This thing called Syria now has reached a level that must be discussed...those "moderates" who have been fighting against Assad have for over four years been fighting at the same time IS.

But who is getting bombed by Russia........the moderates have repeatedly stated we need to finish the fight against Assad then we will turn our attention to IS.

Robert and many here have repeatedly stated the solution must come from the Sunni's themselves and the Sunni Syrian groups want to fight IS but when is getting bombed and limited in military support outside of their own Sunni State States then what should they think of the words they always hear out of the US.

Russia will play this to the hilt and apply pressure for nations to join them in Syria which would a massively fatal mistake especially when Russia has for years indirectly supported IS just as Assad has and yes even Turkey.

Terrorism has no religion. "Christian" Russia is responsible for massacres in Ukraine and Syria. They are not called terrorists?

Why is that---nation states cannot be "terrorists"??

People have short memories, and forget who the Soviet Union's allies were, and who the KGB has trained, Iran, Iraq, PLO, Syria.

So remember that plea for caution from Vladimir Putin?…

Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 4:48pm

A grain of truth in this social media comment........

While Sunni "extremists" are fought worldwide, Shia "extremists" get Iranian funds, US arms and Russian air force cover.

And Obama does not quite get just the Sunni rebels inside Syria do not quite trust the US??

Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 4:18pm

This is one of the most complete breakout of the Russia military in Syria--we have long ago left the realm of a "proxy war"..........

Really worth the complete reading of this article...well researched and matches much of what social media is carrying---------

Detailing Russian Forces in Syria

Igor Sutyagin

RUSI Defence Systems, 13 November 2015

Russia, Syria, International Security Studies

Russia’s direct intervention in the Syrian crisis has attracted a great deal of attention. A detailed analysis of the actual scope of the Russian military deployment in Syria indicates Moscow’s level of commitment to the conflict

This article uses a number of sources to provide a detailed account of the forces Moscow has committed to its operations in Syria. Coverage of the conflict by Russian state media currently provides many opportunities to identify specific elements participating in the Kremlin’s Syrian enterprise. For instance, broad coverage of Russian air operations allows the identification of nearly every plane the Kremlin has sent to Syria. These data have been cross-referenced with data available from earlier Russian publications (including specialist forums and social networks), making it possible to find and confirm the military units from which corresponding pieces of military equipment originate. The manpower of Russian forces has also been estimated by applying information on the standard structures of Russian military units to those units identified as being present in Syria.

The results suggest that the overall manpower of what could be called the Russian Expeditionary Corps in Syria has increased recently by approximately 25–35 per cent and can be currently estimated as between 3,500–4,100. This estimate excludes the crews of naval and cargo ships, and the transport aircraft involved in logistical support for the Russian combat forces in country. The list of Russian units and force elements involved in the Syrian operation, as well as hardware identified or estimated on the basis of the current study, is presented below.

Land Forces

The land forces committed to Russia’s Syrian operation include:
•A battalion tactical group of the 810th Marines Brigade (Sevastopol) which consists of the 542nd Marines Assault Battalion and the brigade’s command and control elements – approximately 580 men
•162nd Separate Reconnaissance Battalion of the 7th Guards Air Assault Division (Novorossiysk) – approximately 320 men
•Reconnaissance battalion of the 74th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Yurga, Siberia) – approximately 440 men
•A battalion tactical group of the 27th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Moscow) consisting of two motor-rifle companies reinforced by one tank company – approximately 300 men
•One Spetsnaz battalion probably of the 3rd Spetsnaz Brigade (Tolyatti, Saratov Province); it is possible that this battalion originates from the 22nd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade (Rostov-upon-Don) – 230 men
•A sniper team of the ‘Senezh’ Brigade, SOF Command (Solnechnogorsk, Moscow Province) – unidentified number of men
•Six 2A65 Msta-B towed howitzers from the howitzer battery of the 8th Artillery Regiment (Simferopol, Crimea) – seventy men
•Eighteen 2A65 Msta-B howitzers from the howitzer battalion of the 120th Artillery Brigade (Kemerovo, Siberia) – 270 men
•Four 9A52 Smerch vehicles forming two MLRS batteries which might originate from the 439th Guards Rocket Artillery Brigade (Znamensk, Astrakhan Province) – 50–60 men
•Six TOS-1A Solntsepek heavy flamethrower vehicles from one heavy flamethrower company of the 20th NRBC regiment (Nizhniy Novgorod) – thirty men
•An electronic-warfare (EW) company with six R-330B UHF jamming stations, three R-378B HF jamming stations and six 1L29 SPR-2 Rtut-B radio-proximity-fuse jamming/initiation stations, most probably from the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade (Khabarovsk) – approximately sixty men
•A long-range jamming (EW) company most likely of the 17th EW Brigade (Nizhneudinsk, Irkutsk Province) with one set (two vehicles) of 1RL257 Krasukha-4 aviation fire-control radar-jamming stations – approximately twenty men.

The overall size of the Russian force’s land component in Syria appears to be approximately 2,400 men. There are signs that Russian artillery assets are already involved on an ad hoc basis in providing fire support for the Syrian army 4th Assault Corps’ operations near Aleppo and there are some reports of Russian artillery fire near Homs and Hama.


The air-forces elements committed in Syria include:
•Four Su-30SM heavy fighters of the 120th Mixed Air Regiment (Domna air base, Chita; all four aircraft positively identified with tail numbers ‘26, 27, 28, 29 red’)
•Four Su-34 bombers of the 47th Mixed Air Regiment (Buturlinovka, Voronezh Province; all four aircraft positively identified with tail numbers ‘21, 22, 25, 27 red’)
•Potentially between twenty-four and thirty Su-24M and Su-24M2 bombers (equivalent to the Tornado-GR) originating from the 2nd Guards Bomber Regiment (Shagol air base, Chelyabinsk; seven aircraft positively identified with tail numbers ‘04, 05, 08, 16, 25, 26, 27 white’) and 277th Bomber Regiment (Khurba air base, Komsomolsk-upon-Amur; five aircraft positively identified with tail numbers ‘71, 72, 74, 75, 76 white’)
•Ten Su-25SM attack aircraft and two Su-25UB combat trainers of the 960th Attack Air Regiment (Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Krasnodar Province; all twelve aircraft positively identified – Su-25SM tail numbers ‘21, 22, 24, 29 red’ in brown-green-blue tri-colour camouflage scheme, and ‘25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32 red’ in grey livery, and Su-25UB tail numbers ‘44, 53 red’)
•Twelve Mi-24PN gunship helicopters and two Mi-8AMTSh transport – air-support helicopters of the 113th Combat Helicopter Regiment (Novosibirsk; all fourteen helicopters positively identified – Mi-24PN tail numbers ‘03, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 34, 36, 37, 40 yellow’, and Mi-8AMTSh tail numbers ‘212, 252 yellow’)
•Up to eight Mi-28N attack helicopters – most probably originating from the 2nd Squadron, 487th Helicopter Regiment (Budenovsk, Stavropol Province)
•One Il-22M airborne command post/relay aircraft (registration number RA 75917) from the 144th AWACS Regiment (Ivanovo)
•One or two Il-20M signals intelligence/jamming aircraft (tail numbers are not yet identified) of the 257th Mixed Air Regiment (Khabarovsk); there are some unconfirmed reports that one Il-20M aircraft has been operating from the Al-Takaddum air base near Baghdad in Iraq which might be one of the two aircraft deployed by the Russian Air-Space Forces to Syria
•Six 96K6 Pantsyr-S1 (SA-22) vehicles forming one air-defence battery with logistics elements, probably originating from the 1537th Air Defence Regiment (Novorossiysk) – approximately ninety-five men
•Airfield-logistics battalion – 360–80 men
•Airfield-logistics company (helicopter) – 90–110 men
•Communications and air-traffic-control battalion – 240–70 men.

The overall manpower of the Russian air component in Syria appears to be 1,200–350 men, including 150–80 pilots, 280 aviation technicians, 690–760 men in aviation support and around 100 men in the air-defence battery. Air-traffic-control hardware and airfield support elements recently spotted aboard Russian ships in the Bosporus heading for Syria suggest that the Russian command might be considering the establishment of another air base in addition to the main Khmeimim air base which is adjacent to Bassel Al-Assad international airport. Although the majority of Russian air strikes originated from Khmeimim until recently, Il-20M, Il-22M and Mi-28 helicopters never used it as their operational base. However, there have been independent reports from both Russian and foreign sources referring to the presence of the Russian Il-20/Il-22 and Mi-28 in Syria. So these planes and helicopters most probably operate from unidentified alternative bases.

Elements of the air component started arriving in Syria in the second half of September and immediately began reconnaissance and familiarisation flights over Syria. It is noteworthy that during that period and until approximately 7 October, after the Russian deployment had been officially announced and Russian air strikes had begun, Russian aircraft flew with their national insignia painted over. This changed after 7 October when Russian insignia were restored on the combat jets. Meanwhile Russian helicopters continue to fly over Syria without any national insignia. A single Mi-8AMTSh ‘212 red’ is the only helicopter carrying the Russian ’Red Star’ insignia, thus being an exception to an otherwise common practice.


Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 1:44pm

Obama is having more problem than a proxy fight---Iran is massively involved with their IRGC, Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shia militia (that killed many US troops) actively supporting Assad in southern Aleppo.

NOW this today out of Iran.........

I can only say "I told you so" but what's the use. This will get ugly: Iran Threatens to Walk Away from Nuke Deal…

The perfect UW storm...a merging of Iranian and Russian non linear warfare to achieve their political warfare geopolitical goals....AND Obama has not counter strategy other than "talking"??????

Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 11:59am

Russia does not like informational warfare being turned back onto them via social media and MSM......

The Russian Defense Ministry spox says @DailyMailUK is spreading "disinformation" about S-400s in Syria.

Normally the acquisition radars for the S400 is not per Russian AD doctrine used for other AD systems......

.@mod_russia calls @MailOnline S-400 article misinformation — really?.. it came via #Kremlin's @yurybarmin

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 2:14pm

Appears Obama has a subject to discuss with Putin at the G20 meeting in Turkey....Russia war crimes against humanity....

Russia used this same weapon against the Ukrainian AF at the Donetsk airport AND then "denied" using it......war crime as it is being used against a civilian population.......

#Russia uses White Phosphorus vs. villages in #Idlib province.

Some ammunition WP canisters was found moments ago in #Benin & #Harsha after #Russia MI-24 attack

Another video of the WP attack in #Syria's #Idlib province.

Russian militants and media loved so much to blame Ukraine in "Phosphorus bombs".
Idlib,Syria tonight

Another video showing the use of the Russians of WP against civilian targets....war crime.......

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 1:18pm

Reference the Beirut suicide attack today......when the Russian MoD constantly lies about that they claim to strike vs reality--you get this .

Calm down everyone. Beirut blasts are just Russia airstrike on ISIS in Raqqa
GPS is Overrated

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 9:31am

This is just how "proxy" Syria has gotten......

In this Kurdish combat video from today about their push against IS--at about 1.10 into the video and shortly before you will hear an American talking on a cell in the background next to the door. CIA, Contractor or SF??

Wars directed by cell----and the Russians are monitoring everything?


Fri, 11/13/2015 - 6:31am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Have any such blockages actually occurred? What are the sources of the claims?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 7:47am

Strong Russian influence on US social media and internet companies makes one question whether US companies actively participate in the ongoing Russian Syrian info war operations????

Soon many locations in #Syria may be blurred out in apps such as Google Earth, Maps etc . #Russia, #Syria pushing services hard for blockage

Why do US companies not push back--an interesting question as to who they respond to while claiming to be US companies?????

We have seen YouTube, FB and Twitter cave to Russian troll demands and yet when social media sources request the same treatment of Russian troll inputs--the US companies ignore them---interesting is it not who in the US actively supports Russian info war operations?


Fri, 11/13/2015 - 6:27am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Governments and media are taking exactly the correct approach by refusing to respond to pro-Russian trolls. Response just spreads the original rumors further. The Russian campaign is failing because it is crude and lacks credibility... the Russian "info warriors" do their own cause more harm than good.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 7:33am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Bellingcat has been literally disproving RuAF MoD statements on their actual target strikes by extensive geo tagging and this is from CIT that is especially agitating the Russians....

Activist Says Russia Using 'Hybrid Warfare' In Syria

Tony Wesolowsky
Mark Krutov

The CIT report CIT says three serving or former Russian soldiers had been geolocated by photographs on social media in Syria, including locations near Hama, Aleppo, and Homs.

The head of a team of Russian cybersleuths, who have uncovered what they argue is a much more robust Russian military role in Syria than officially claimed, says the Kremlin seems to be following the "hybrid warfare" playbook perfected in eastern Ukraine.

Activists from the Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) said in a report released on November 8 that Russia's military is taking an active role in ground operations of the Syrian army's fight against the opposition, contradicting Kremlin claims that its intervention is limited to air strikes and providing military advisers and equipment.

Ruslan Leviev, who heads CIT, said the scenario is similar to the one the Kremlin used in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has been accused of directly backing separatists fighting Ukrainian forces with arms, weapons, and regular troops, while admitting only that Russian volunteers were taking part.

"There is the 'official part' which no one denies: In Syria it is the bombing campaign; in Ukraine it was the 'volunteers'," Leviev explained in an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service. "Then there is the 'unofficial part', which the authorities vehemently deny, but which is obvious: the participation (of Russian forces) in ground operations, the deployment of various heavy weapons. It's this type of "hybrid warfare," where there is the official, open part, and the hidden, unofficial part," Leviev said.

Russia's deployment to Syria -- its largest outside the former Soviet Union in two decades -- has included advanced fighter jets, antiaircraft missile systems, tanks, and armored-personnel carriers.

But much of the Russian weaponry has been positioned -- officially anyway -- at the Latakia air base in western Syria.

Russia first launched air strikes to support President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's four-year civil war on September 30, but has repeatedly stated it has no intention of launching a ground offensive.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refused to comment on the CIT finding, the latest to leave the Kremlin squirming.

In the past, CIT has used its social-media investigative skills to uncover information about Russian military deaths in Ukraine. In late October, CIT was first to report the first confirmed death of a Russian soldier in Syria.

In its latest report, CIT said three serving or former Russian soldiers had been geolocated by photographs on social media in Syria, including locations near Hama, Aleppo, and Homs.

Russia's military jets are based at the base in Latakia, far from where the three men were geolocated.

CIT published screenshots from a social-media account belonging to Ayas Saryg-Ool, a soldier it said served in Russia's 74th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, and from an account belonging to Vladimir Boldyrev, who it suggested was a Russian marine from the 810th Separate Marine Brigade.

It showed both of them had recently posted pictures with geolocation tags in Hama Province. Saryg-Ool's page, which had previously shown him posing with a heavy machine gun and in the cab of what CIT said was an artillery tow truck, was not available as of November 8, the same day CIT issued its report.

CIT also published screenshots from the Instagram page of Ilya Gorelykh, who it said had served in Russia's GRU special forces in the past.

In late October it showed he had uploaded pictures from Aleppo, one of which showed him holding an assault rifle while wearing civilian clothes. Another image of him posing in camouflage with three other armed men was apparently taken in Homs.

The pictures were not available on his account on November 8.
A screenshot of a social media post by Ilya Gorelykh who has reportedly served in Russia's GRU special forces.

The CIT report follows statements by U.S. security officials and independent experts on November 4 to the Reuters news agency that Russia's military force in Syria has doubled to 4,000 troops.

Leviev told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the growing number of Russian military personnel was being deployed beyond the air base in Latakia, in small groups numbering between 20 and 30.

"It's obvious, the contingent is being increased at other places as well -- for example, the air base in Hama, where, as we've seen, there's been an increase in Russian military jets. All of this is still officially dismissed and denied," Leviev explained.

"We are seeing that our columns of military hardware and soldiers are appearing more and more in those provinces in Syria where [Russia], in principle, should not be very close to sites where heavy fighting is taking place. We've sighted our soldiers and our military hardware in the cities of Hama, Homs, Aleppo, those parts of Latakia Province, where heavy fighting is taking place," Leviev told RFE/RL.

The CIT report seems to reinforce statements by a top U.S. State Department official that Russia had deployed heavy artillery and other ground forces near Homs and Hama.

Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, also said Moscow's air campaign in Syria was costing between $2 million and $4 million a day. She described the effort, which has reportedly hit civilian areas, as immoral.

While Moscow insists it is hitting Islamic State group targets, U.S. officials said on November 4 that up to 90 percent of Russia's targets have, in fact, been moderate Syrian rebel groups -- including some that have been trained and supplied weaponry by the United States.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 7:09am

For those that do not believe that social media can in fact "win" in the info war with Russia.... think again------

Here is for the first time a formal Russian complaint of "social media info warriors conducting info war against Russia"..

This is a first time open admission that their Russian Syrian info war efforts are actually failing.

With no assistance from any Western government and or western MSM---just on sheer use of the truth and a constant immediate 24 X 7 response to anything Russia info warriors release--that is the way forward and it works.

Full article about infowar on Russia in Syria waged by @en_informnapalm, @bellingcat, @CITeam_en, @hrw et al.

So a @rianru article puts @CITeam_en on par with such "russophobic heavyweights" as @bellingcat and @hrw. I'm proud.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 6:24am

Obama and his NSC pundits have often stated "the UAF cannot win militarily" in eastern Ukraine just as they say the same thing for the Syrian rebels when it comes to throwing out Assad.

From a rag tag militia in eastern Ukraine to this in only 18 months and the Syrian rebels are winning ground with no air cover and heavy artillery in the face of a combined Russian/Iranian IRGC, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militia terrorists----Iappears to have disproven Obama and his entire NSC.

It is how one defines "winning" and I am not so sure Obama knows how to define the word......appears the UAF is now able to match tank to tank with the Russians inside eastern Ukraine and has now a standing army of 250K not counting border police and SBU units.

Russian troops have made three strong attempts to break through the Minsk 2 lines in the last three days and were stopped in their tracks at the line of contact.

Ukraine has managed to build one of Europe’s largest standing armies in the last 18 months…

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 6:58am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Everyone needs to fully understand this particular Russian nuclear doctrine...

Russian "de-escalation" doctrine - War under a nuclear umbrella via @jamesmashiri 9/12/2014

Very important to factor in Russian military "de-escalation" doctrine of limited nuclear strike

WHY--Russia has exercised this exact doctrine three times in the last 18 months......

MUST READ 'NATO must adapt to address Russia’s nuclear brinkmanship' by @JacekDurkalec… … via @theELN #EUnonprolif

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 3:03am

Sorry to say this but while this article is about a possible proxy fight between two superpowers---we are far further along the road to conflict than many assume we are.

We are now fully and firmly in Cold War 2----regardless of what Putin states in his many disinformation public statements.....or an Obama who does not fully understand UW political he says nothing.

AND Russia is not an existential threat now to the US--some of us have been saying that since Crimea--some since Georgia.

MORE on the Russian underwater nuclear drone...mentioned here yesterday..

Lots more detail on that Russia 'accidental leak' of details on the doomsday-drone nuclear subs

In German......
Kreml bestätigt Echtheit: Geheime Atomwaffen versehentlich im russischen TV gezeigt


Kremlin’s Campaign against Russophobia Threatens both Russia and West, Polish Experts Say… …

Outlaw 09

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 12:49pm

While the superpower clash is right now Syria--it goes far deeper....…

Is Russia working on a massive dirty bomb?

On November 10, 2015 President Putin held a regular meeting with his generals in Sochi to discuss development of the Russian strategic forces. The president used the occasion to complain again about U.S. missile defense plans and to warn that Russia will do whatever it takes to preserve the strategic balance.

But that was not the most interesting part of the news story. One sharp observer (MJ) noticed that the camera took a peek at one of the documents prepared for the meetings (it is at 1:46 in the news story). It showed a summary of one of the projects that presumably were discussed at the meeting as part of the plan to restore that strategic balance that the U.S. missile defense system so blatantly undermines.

The project is called "Ocean Multipurpose System 'Status-6'" with the TsKB MT Rubin design bureau listed as the lead developer (Rubin is the design bureau that built virtually all submarines that are currently in service). A brief paragraph describes the mission of the proposed system as follows:

Damaging the important components of the adversary's economy in a coastal area and inflicting unacceptable damage to a country's territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic, or other activity for long periods of time.

The picture that follows shows that at the core of the weapon system is an underwater autonomous drone ("self-propelled underwater craft" or SPA), which could be delivered by one of the two submarines - Project 09852 or Project 09851. For some reason, the drone is shown as attached to the bottom of the 09852 submarine, but not to the 09851. Te text is hard to read, but it appears that Project 09852 submarine will carry four drones and Project 09852 - either 3 or 6. Given that 09852 is a smaller submarine (its displacement is shown as "10000 t" vs. what looks like a larger number for 09852), it's probably 3. It certainly does not look like "1", although "2" is a possibility.

Interestingly, these two submarines are relatively recent projects. Project 09852 was laid down at Sevmash in December 2012. It is said to use the hull of the Belgorod submarine of the Project 949A/Oscar II class. The first Project 09851 submarine, Khabarovsk, was laid down in July 2014. (Project 09851 was also mentioned in the R&D known as Kalitka-SMP.)

Again, the text is barely legible, but it appears that the drone would be able to travel at the depth of up to 1000 m at a fairly high speed (something like 105 km/h?). The range appears to be listed as 10000 km, which is a bit hard to believe, but this is what the slide says. The diameter ("caliber") of the drone appears to be more than 1 meter (probably 1.6 m), the general's hand hides the length of the device.

The drone appears to be nuclear-powered - the fourth compartment is marked "Reactor module". This would explain the range, I guess, although it would need some guidance system to find its way around.

Further down the list, there is a drawing of the system's components - command and control, support ships (non-nuclear submarine "Sarov" and some surface ship - Zvezdochka rescue ship I'm told), and something else that we cannot see.

Finally, the timeline at the bottom of the slide says that pilot system will be built by 2019, so the state tests can be conducted in 2019-2020.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. First, it's an interesting security lapse. I know that quite a few people believe that the leak was intentional, but I don't think it's the case. Indeed, as I understand, the news organizations quickly removed the clip from their sites. On the other hand, Bill Getz did have a story about Russian underwater drone, Kanyon, two months ago. The name is different, but it appears to be more or less the system Gertz's Pentagon sources described. So, maybe Moscow decided that the leak would not be such a big deal. Still, they would have probably preferred to keep some details out of it.

As for the project itself, Russia is not the only country that is working on underwater drones. But the payload looks like a massive "dirty bomb", which strikes me as absolutely crazy. A number of people noted that the description does not necessarily exclude the possibility that the initial "damaging" can be done by a regular nuclear device. Which only makes this whole thing even more insane - do they think that a nuclear weapon on its own would not inflict "unacceptable damage"?

Outlaw 09

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 11:58am

Obama’s ‘Sunni Awakening’ strategy flops as Iran’s Shias gain upper hand…

About 2000 militia fighters from Iraq (Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq & Kata'ib Hezbollah) lead by IRGC now fighting in southern rural Aleppo

NOTE: Both the al-Haq and Kata'ib have killed a large number of US troops in Iraq via EFPs made and smuggled in from Iran........

A longer video showing Russian jets strike a marketplace, wait till civilians return to the scene to strike again

NOTE: US FB often removes videos that are not in line with what the Russian info warriors want the narrative to be--in this case the killing of civilians deliberately----thus they complain to FB and FB nicely removes them. AND FB is a US based company not a Russian based company.

You can see the bomb land right on top of the first responders. DeirEzzor Syria

Don't overestimate Iran's stability. Restive minorities loom large in the country, & regime change would be messy:

Outlaw 09

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 5:16am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C--here is the inherent problem with all of your comments---in a nutshell---and cutting straight to the heart of the problem........

The Russian regime directed more than 100 attacks in Ukraine and Syria in the last 24hours and in the Ukraine has never been in compliance with anything in Minsk 2 an agreement they even pushed and during their nuclear exercises just this last week they even fired in direct violation of the INF a truly forbidden SLCM version and then stated WHAT SLCM even after releasing a video of it being launched.

Perfect example of Russian actions....perfect example of the US actions....
AbuKamal massacre in DeirEzzor
84 martyrs by the RussianAirStrikes of Abu Kamal several days ago.
Cluster munitions and dumb bombs were used.......

Poor @mod_russia just can't a hang of this bombing Raqqa thing. Off by a mere 115km. (h/t @AEJKhalil for the coords)

This, despite @mod_russia insisting that it literally triple checks its targets

Syria, Bukamal: People flee after Russia|n airstrike -> They rush back to help -> 2nd airstrike hit them directly.

What is the entire world's reaction? We the West talk a lot about genocide but when it is directly in your face with video footage across the world for all to see and verify--- WHAT do we the West actually really do.....?

Talks with Putin.

When one side acts and the other side "talks"--you can go into all the different PS/IR theories BUT taking normal human behavior into account and PS/IR is really all about human behavior at the civil society levels--we have long ago reached that certain point that even the SACEUR pointed out yesterday has been reached--when one side is pushing and the other side gives way AT some point if you do not start pushing back the aggressive acts of the "pusher" just gets worse and the problem "escalates".

Watch a playground--the bully unless pushed back will always dominate the playground.

Putin is not as everyone thinks a "strategist" he is a in the moment tactician and until he is called out he will not stop--in his own words from last week in an interview--"in my world of the streets of St. Petersburg if you knew something was coming at you used your fists of steel first". So thinks by the way the Russian mafia.

That is exactly his FP style and the sooner Obama wakes up and realizes "you cannot talk with a bully" the better US policies will be in the long run.

Remember it is Obama that is setting the stage for the coming next President who will either have to dig themselves out of one heck of a deep hole and or glide on with what has been achieved.

Right now it is one heck of a deep hole Obama has dug for himself and the entire US civil society.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 1:42am

In reply to by Bill C.

Just as the discussion around the UW concept of non linear warfare has basically gone quiet even when we have not fully understood the vast implications of it's use in foreign policy we are failing to fully understand the Syrian events.

What started out as an Arab Spring when oppressively resisted by Assad to the point of genocide of an ethnic civil society naturally morphed on it's own into a civil war/rebellion---which is the natural progression when a civil society has no other choice.

BUT then the Iranian UW concept kicks in to defend the Khomeini "revolutionary Islam" with the IRGC as the defenders of the faith AND what is far more important to Iran--protecting the "Green Crescent" land corridor to the Shia population in Lebanon.

THEN this Assad genocide morphed together with the Iranian non linear warfare into a proxy war attempting to drive Assad out.

THEN when the proxy war stalemated and Assad appeared to be failing it morphed again into a superpower confrontation with a willing Putin and more than somewhat reluctant Obama--but it is now a superpower confrontation.

Underlying this now is that it has further morphed into a true Sunni Shia open war being fought by the local Sunni civil society against really an offshoot of Shiaism--BUT now fully supported by Iran and Shia fighters from 12 different countries and as spread into Yemen and surrounding ME areas.

What is interesting is now --both superpowers are actually when we use the correct definition of "proxy" proxies for the Sunni Shia war---Russia supporting the Shia side out of geo political drives in the ME AND here is what is being often overlooked--Obama would not normally be involved in this civil war but he has been dragged into it as he must support the KSA simply because of the Iran Deal and he must constantly ensure that the KSA stays his course so he caves and follows the KSA led.

What is far more interesting is that Obama assumed falsely that with time Iran will eventually become "normal" overlooking a lot of advice that said the opposite.

AND yes Iran is not changing one inch if the announcement yesterday of stopping of the dismantling of their nuclear centrifuges is any indicator and the sending of the Iraqi Shia Hezbollah fighters into Syria as well as 3000 IRGC troops.

So we need to get to the discussion of just how this Sunni Shia war will effect the globe not just Syria.

What Obamaa has seen though is that with just weapons ie uniforms, ammunition and TOWs and some advisors/training--when the local civil society is willing to fight-- we do not get into the shifting sands of Syria. Actually something that is in fact underneath some of this thinking---ie how not to get the US into the policeman role.

He blew it though in not supporting the Ukrainian through the TOW--that would have balanced the Ukraine issue and Putin would have be placed before the decision war or settlement--as he also really does not want a war as even his military sees them losing it and even though he acts as if he wants a war.

Question is--will he learn from this experience?

Consider our application of special operations forces and air forces -- in Syria and elsewhere -- from the following perspective:

The strategic objective of a weaker local enemy -- in what for the stronger external power is only a "limited war" -- is to provoke the stronger external power into escalating its operations on the ground. (Think more in terms of conventional forces here.)

In this manner, the weaker local enemy hoping to cause the stronger external power -- in its "limited war" -- to incur costs (think blood, political capital and other treasure) which are disproportionate to such "limited wars." Costs which, over time, the weaker local enemy believes will attrite the stronger external power's "political capability" to continue to wage such "limited wars."

(The stronger external power's people -- incurring such adversely disproportionate costs -- to ultimately say "bring the boys and girls home, as this/these such wars are just not that important.")

This, in a nutshell, is our weaker local enemies' rationale and strategy.

In this light, to see why the stronger external power might adopt a strategy which allows, generally speaking, for the application of air and special operations forces only against these (a) many and diverse weaker local enemies and in these, likewise, (b) many and diverse "limited wars." This, providing that the stronger external power might:

a. Defeat its weaker local enemies' "political attrition" strategy (identified above); this, by

b. Being able to stay (via the use of air and special operations forces only) in these numerous "limited wars" indefinitely.

(This, due to the stronger external power's public now finding as acceptable -- i.e., proportionate -- the "costs" of such "limited operations" vis-a-vis such "limited wars.")

Thus, to see the application of special operations -- to compliment our air forces operations in Syria and elsewhere -- not in terms of escalation, but simply as our new "standard operating procedure" -- our new "order of the day" -- one which adapts to:

a. Our many, varied and often endless "limited wars" of the current era; these,

b. Against many, varied and often endless weaker local enemies -- all of whom

c. Seek to defeat us via the only really effective weapon, and strategy, that they have, to wit: the "political attrition" strategy outlined above.…

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 12:20pm

In Vienna, Western gvts fell in Ru/Iran/Assad trap by agreeing to clearly define who is a terrorist group in Syria…

Another indicator that those in DC and especially Obama pays absolutely no attention to exactly what Putin says and or does.

When dealing with Putin you must analyze every word four times through and then do it again to fully understand his intentions.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 7:53am

In reply to by Dayuhan

The more interesting set of questions are and no one in DC wants to touch them---

Is in fact Russia a proxy for the Iranian government--not vice versa?

Second question --has Putin in fact violated his own public statement that he was not getting into a "religious war".

Virtually the entire Syrian Arab army is basically the Syrian Shia Army with Shia fighting units from 12 different countries.

Side question would now be with the Iraqi Hezbollah fighting in Syria--they are basically fully armed with US weaponry down to and including helmets/body armor provided to the Iraqi government--does this not create the perception that US is also siding with Iran?

Thirdly--has in effect Russia now fully sided with Iran against all Sunni civil societies in the ME and within his own Russian Federation?

What began as a civil war, then morphed into a proxy war and has now morphed again in a full scale sectarian war between Sunni and Shia reaching all the way to Yemen.

In some aspects Russia by entering Syria forced itself into the face of the US---which Putin wanted and got.

So this sectarian war now has a superpower conflict edge to it---disagree with many here at SWJ--we are now fully into Cold War 2 with an underlying ideological tone to it just as it had in Cold War 1.

This new ideology stems mainly from the Putin side---basically anti US on anything as the US has been stamped the evil being--- causing all the worlds problems/ills--at least from Putin's perspective.

Syria may to some extent be a proxy war, but it is certainly not a proxy war pitting the US against Russia. There's a whole lot more to it than that.