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CONFIRMED: Syrian army resumes advance in Aleppo

Following end of ‘humanitarian pause’ Syrian army resumes attack on Jihadis in south west suburbs of Aleppo.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though inevitably it has been overshadowed by the US election, the situation on the ground in Syria continues to develop with further advances by the Syrian army being reported on all the fronts in western Syria in which it is engaged.

In the key battle ground of Aleppo the Syrian army, having repulsed the latest attack by the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis, appears to be preparing for a major advance in south west Aleppo. 

Following the end of Friday’s ‘humanitarian pause” – which as expected the Jihadis ignored – the Syrian air force has been back in action, bombing Jihadi positions in south west Aleppo.   The Syrian army has also made inroads in the strategically important 1060 apartment complex (the very latest reports suggest it may have captured it entirely). 

There are also reports – so far unconfirmed – that the Russian Aerospace Forces have been in action again, attacking Jihadi positions in south west Aleppo in conjunction with the Syrian air force (the Russian Defence Ministry is however denying reports that the Russian Aerospace Forces have been in action against Jihadi supply lines west of the Aleppo battlefront in Al-Qaeda controlled Idlib province).

The Syrian army’s Chief of Staff – Lt. General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub – has recently inspected Syrian army positions in Aleppo, apparently in preparation for the offensive, and the Iranian news agency Fars is reporting that it will take place within the next few days.

The Syrian army’s battle strategy in Aleppo is dictated by one overriding factor – its lack of any decisive numerical advantage over the Jihadis it is fighting.

According to the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura there are 8,000 Jihadis trapped inside eastern Aleppo (though he claims absurdly that only 900 of them are Al-Qaeda connected Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters).  According to Russian, Syrian and Iranian news agency reports, around 16,000 Al-Qaeda led Jihadis attacked south west Aleppo during the last two Jihadi counter offensives.  That would make for a total of 24,000 Jihadi fighters fighting the Syrian army in and around Aleppo during the recent fighting.

No similar breakdown of the total number of Syrian and allied troops in Aleppo has ever been provided, save that a few weeks ago there were reports that 8,000 Shia militia for Iraq had joined the Syrian troops there.  A Daily Telegraph report in September however put the number of Syrian troops in Aleppo at about 15-20,000. 

It seems therefore that the two opposing forces fighting in Aleppo have roughly equal numbers.  If the highest estimates for the number of Jihadis (24,000) and the lowest estimates for the number of Syrian troops (15,000) are both true, then it is not impossible that the total number of Jihadi fighters fighting in and around Aleppo actually outnumbers the total number of Syrian and allied troops fighting there.

Compare this situation with the one in Mosul, where US intelligence claims that there are between 3,000 to 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul itself supplemented by a further 1,500 to 2,000 ISIS fighters in a zone outside the city, pitted against a coalition force consisting of Iraqi troops and anti-ISIS forces whose total number is put at anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000.

It is this lack of a decisive manpower advantage that explains the incremental strategy the Syrian army has been obliged to follow in Aleppo.  Quite simply, the Syrian army has never had the numbers to storm eastern Aleppo in a single operation.  Its strategy, undoubtedly planned with the help of the Russians and the Iranians, has instead been to advance to its goal step by step: first by re-opening and securing its supply lines to government controlled western Aleppo, and then by isolating the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo until their position becomes so untenable that they can put up little resistance when the Syrian army eventually attacks them. 

What that means in practice is a strategy of first surrounding the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo, then of repulsing Jihadi counter-offensives to break the siege of eastern Aleppo, whilst at the same time pursuing a strategy of continuously recapturing more and more of the countryside around Aleppo in order to isolate even further the Jihadi controlled pocket in eastern Aleppo to the point where it loses all connection to its hinterland.

It is the Syrian army’s steady recapture of the surrounding villages and strong points in the Aleppo countryside which explains why each successive Jihadi counter offensives is having diminishing success.  As the Jihadi fighters during the intervals between their offensives incrementally lose positions in the Aleppo countryside, they lose the bases from which they launch their attacks.  As a result their attacks are increasingly failing to gain traction.

In time, as eastern Aleppo becomes completely isolated, the expectation is that cut off from all hope of supply or reinforcement it will fall easily into the Syrian army’s hands like a ripe fruit when the moment comments for it to be stormed. 

That is the strategy.  What it involves in practice is gruelling attritional warfare, with long pauses – which the Syrians and the Russians make use of politically by calling them ‘ceasefires’ and ‘humanitarian pauses’ – as each side replenishes and consolidates in preparation for the next round.

The planned Syrian offensive in south western Aleppo is a continuation of this strategy.  It is in this area that the Syrian army is most vulnerable since it is there that its main supply lines to southern Syria are located. 

By gradually driving the Jihadis away from this area the Syrian army is not only securing its main supply lines, but it is further isolating the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo by reducing the prospects of a Jihadi breakthrough there.

Ultimately, since there is little to no prospect of the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo ever giving up, the area will eventually have to be stormed.  However until its positions in south west Aleppo are fully secured, the Syrian army is not in a position to do this.

The fighting in western Syria is of course not only confined to Aleppo. 

Reports of the fighting elsewhere speak of the Syrian army making rapid advances.  In recent months it has cleared most of the countryside around Damascus of Jihadi fighters, with just a few pockets of resistance left in eastern Ghouta, whilst the Syrian army is now reported to control 85% of the territory of Hama province. 

As I have discussed previously, the Jihadis’ transfer of fighters from other Syrian fronts to Aleppo is causing their positions elsewhere in western Syria to collapse.

As to why the Jihadis are doing that, it was recently again explained by no less a person than Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who the Iranian Fars news agency reports as saying

“If we succeed, having won Aleppo, which I’m sure we will do, the West will have to rethink its mistake.”

In other words if the Syrian army recaptures Aleppo any possibility of regime change in Damascus is gone.  For that reason that the Jihadis in Aleppo will hold on in eastern Aleppo at any cost, even if by doing so they are hastening their eventual defeat in the war.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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OPEC Plus: Putin’s move to control energy market with Saudi partnership (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 150.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss OPEC Plus and the growing partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which aims to reshape the energy market, and cement Russia’s leadership role in global oil and gas supply.

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Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ WILL survive

The Express UK reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ will not only survive, but grow, regardless of geopolitical turmoil and internal Saudi scandal…as the energy interests between both nations bind them together.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have a “long-term relationship” which is strategically beneficial to both of them, and which underlines their position as the world’s most influential oil producers, alongside the United States, an industry expert has said.

Following concerns about too much oil flooding the market, Saudi Arabia on Sunday performed an abrupt u-turn by deciding to reduce production by half a million barrels a day from December.

This put the Middle Eastern country at odds with Russia, which said it was no clear whether the market would be oversupplied next year, with market analysts predicting the country’s oil producing companies likely to BOOST proaction by 300,000 barrels per day.

But IHS Markit vice chairman Daniel Yergin said the decision was unlikely to jeopardise the relationship between the two allies.

The Saudis have faced significant international criticism in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Speaking to CNBC, Mr Yergin made it clear that Moscow and Riyadh would continue to be closely aligned irrespective of external factors.

He explained: “I think it’s intended to be a long-term relationship and it started off about oil prices but you see it taking on other dimensions, for instance, Saudi investment in Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas) and Russian investment in Saudi Arabia.

“I think this is a strategic relationship because it’s useful to both countries.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia are close, especially as a result of their pact in late 2016, along with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers, to curb output by 1.8 million barrels per day in order to prevent prices dropping too far – but oil markets have changed since then, largely as a result.

The US criticised OPEC, which Saudi Arabia is the nominal leader of, after prices rose.

Markets have fluctuated in recent weeks as a result of fears over a possible drop in supply, as a result of US sanctions on Iran, and an oversupply, as a result of increased production by Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, which have seen prices fall by about 20 percent since early October.

Saudi Arabia has pumped 10.7 million barrels per day in October, while the figure for Russiaand the US was 11.4 million barrels in each case.

Mr Yergin said: “It’s the big three, it’s Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, this is a different configuration in the oil market than the traditional OPEC-non-OPEC one and so the world is having to adjust.”

BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley told CNBC: “The OPEC-plus agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia and coalition is a lot stronger than people speculate.

“I think Russia doesn’t have the ability to turn on and off big fields which can happen in the Middle East.

“But I fully expect there to be coordination to try to keep the oil price within a certain fairway.”

Markets rallied by two percent on Monday off the back of the , which it justified by citing uncertain global oil growth and associated oil demand next year.

It also suggested  granted on US sanctions imposed on Iran which have been granted to several countries including China and Japan was a reason not to fear a decline in supply.

Also talking to CNBC, Russia’s Oil Minister Alexander Novak indicated a difference of opinion between Russia and the Saudis, saying it was too soon to cut production, highlighting a lot of volatility in the oil market.

He added: “If such a decision is necessary for the market and all the countries are in agreement, I think that Russia will undoubtedly play a part in this.

“But it’s early to talk about this now, we need to look at this question very carefully.”

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Nigel Farage lashes out at Angela Merkel, as Chancellor attends EU Parliament debate (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 17.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Nigel Farage’s blistering speech, aimed squarely at Angela Merkel, calling out the German Chancellor’s disastrous migrant policy, wish to build an EU army, and Brussels’ Cold War rhetoric with Russia to the East and now the United States to the West.

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