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War of Attrition: Understanding the Battle of Aleppo

The Syrian army’s incremental approach to the siege of eastern Aleppo – cutting off the Jihadi fighters from the countryside and building up a comprehensive intelligence picture of their dispositions – is what lies behind their sudden collapse.

Alexander Mercouris

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Latest reports from Aleppo confirm that whatever talks are underway between the Jihadis and the Russians in Ankara, they are having no effect on the fighting in the city.

Yesterday the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo once again reaffirmed their intention to go on fighting.  They also announced that they had agreed a new command structure bringing together all the Jihadi factions in eastern Aleppo. 

Since the Jihadis have already had a unified command structure in the city – one moreover dominated by Al-Qaeda – it is not clear whether this is simply an exercise in public relations – possibly intended to restore morale amongst the Jihadi fighters in the city – or whether it is a genuine reorganisation provoked by the loss of 40% of the Jihadi controlled districts of eastern Aleppo over the course of the week, which must have caused a sharp fall in confidence on the part of the Jihadis in their commanders.  On balance it is more likely to be the first.

The Jihadis also launched a counterattack over the course of yesterday, which appears to have briefly recovered some ground, though the very latest reports suggest they have again been driven back.

This counterattack also looks more like an attempt to restore morale amongst the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo rather than being a serious attempt to reverse the situation there.  Al-Qaeda’s commanders surely know that reversing their losses of the last few days is simply beyond their power.

The priority of the Syrian military command in Aleppo will be to consolidate its sudden gains of this week.  Already there are reports of civilians returning to the Masaken Hanano district, which was recaptured from the Jihadis at the beginning of the week, and of schools reopening there. 

Only once the newly recaptured districts of eastern Aleppo have been fully secured will the Syrian army resume its attack on the rest of the Jihadi held pocket.  Given the extent to which it has now been reduced in size, and its isolation from the rest of the country, it is debatable how defendable it now is, and for how long it can hold out when the Syrian army resumes its advance.

The ebb and flow of the fighting in Aleppo has been the source of much confusion, with the widespread belief that the repeated ceasefires and humanitarian pauses have worked to the advantage of the Jihadis by giving them time to reorganise and re-equip, whilst breaking the momentum of the advances of the Syrian army.

Whilst there is some truth to this, the Syrian army’s lack of a decisive manpower advantage and logistical constraints means that that there has almost certainly been no real alternative but to take this incremental approach, with the Syrian army also needing pauses – like the one underway now – so as to reorganise and re-equip before it can undertake further advances. 

As more and more of the countryside around Aleppo has been brought under the Syrian army’s control – causing the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo to become increasingly isolated – it has become clear that the incremental ‘stop-go’ approach has worked more to the advantage of the Syrian army than to the advantage of the Jihadis.

As has been mentioned on some of the threads to my previous articles, this incremental ‘stop-go’ approach has also made it possible for Russian and Syrian intelligence to acquire an exceptionally detailed picture of the number of Jihadis in eastern Aleppo,  of their command structure and  equipment, and of the location of their bases,supply stations, workshops and strong points.  Indeed the Russians have actually admitted as much, saying that they have an almost complete picture of the situation in eastern Aleppo.

Some of this information has undoubtedly been obtained by human informers or spies – with the civilian population of eastern Aleppo almost certainly playing a much bigger role in this than infiltrators – but the decisive role in this information gathering will have been played by electronic tools – ie. by drones and signals intelligence. 

It is a virtual certainty that the Russians are able to listen to all Jihadi radio and telephone communications – including those which use landlines – and that they have broken all the Jihadis’ codes, and by using drones (some of which are barely visible to the human eye) they are able to check the information they obtain in this way.

At least as important in obtaining information is analysing it properly.  The Russians have some of the best military intelligence analysts in the world, but again it will have taken them several months to process and analyse all the intelligence they have received in order to build up a comprehensive picture of the situation in the city.

In summary, it is precisely because the Syrians and the Russians have taken an incremental approach to the battle of Aleppo that they now stand so close to success, and have moreover managed to achieve it at what seems to be an acceptable cost. 

By contrast a rushed attempt in the spring or early summer to storm the Jihadi held eastern districts of the city before they had become fully isolated from the surrounding countryside and without a proper intelligence picture of the Jihadi forces there would have courted disaster.

Before completing this summary of the current situation in Aleppo, I will touch on a question one of our readers – Simon – on one of our threads

“A genuine question for The Duran analysts and its forum;

The Syrian Govt offer amnesty or evacuation to jihadi terrorists (of Syrian citizenship). Some disagree but I am not questioning that – rather the evacuation option is always and ONLY to Idlib Province.

So has Syria effectively abandoned Idlib ? There are reports that there were jihadi extremists and trouble there many years before the war kicked off in 2011. Is the choice of Idlib just a temporary dumping ground borne by necessity or something more significant long term?”

The answer to this question is that the Syrian government has made it clear that it intends to recapture every inch of Syrian territory, and that of course includes Idlib.  In no sense has it abandoned Idlib. 

Whilst it is true that Idlib – or rather the rural areas around it – are often said to have been penetrated by Wahhabi infiltrators and Wahhabi ideas before the start of the 2011 uprising, Idlib itself was only captured by the Jihadis – after repeated failed attempts – in March 2015, and one should be careful before assuming that most of its people support the Jihadis.  Our contributor Afra’a Dagher, who is Syrian and who writes from Syria, absolutely denies that this is the case.

Idlib and Raqqa are however the two provincial capitals in Syria which are under Jihadi control.  Al-Qaeda controls Idlib and ISIS controls Raqqa.  Since most of the Jihadi fighters in western Syria owe allegiance to Al-Qaeda rather than ISIS, it makes sense when negotiating their surrender in other districts which Al-Qaeda controls to agree for them be evacuated to Idlib.

Though Idlib is an important provincial centre which the Syrian government obviously eventually wants to recapture, it is far less important to the Syrian government than those areas of Syria which make up Syria’s heartland – the countryside Damascus and the countryside around it, the towns of Homs and Hama, Latakia province, and Aleppo – control of which for the Syrian government is an existential issue.  If the price of recovering control of these areas is to let the Jihadi fighters retreat temporarily to Idlib, then it is a price the Syrian government is willing to pay. 

Once the Syrian heartland is fully secured, the Syrian army and security forces can deal with these Jihadi fighters in Idlib at leisure.

Having said all this, it is far from certain that all the Jihadi fighters evacuated to Idlib from the rest of Syria are all actually still there.  It is likely that Al-Qaeda sent many of them to fight and die over in last summer’s and autumn’s counter-offensives aimed at breaking the Syrian army’s siege of eastern Aleppo.  Jihadi casualties in that fighting are known to have been very high, and it is likely that many Jihadi fighters evacuated to Idlib from elsewhere in Syria met their deaths there. 

Back on 17th August 2016 I explained how by becoming a battle of attrition the fighting in Aleppo was working to the long benefit of the Syrian government

“This is not a stalemate.  It is a battle of attrition.  Though the fighting in southwestern Aleppo is very intense with only very small movements achieved by either side in the last 2 weeks, in a battle of attrition such as this is it is the rebels who are losing….In a battle of this sort the only chance the rebels would have had of victory would have been if they had achieved it quickly and decisively. ….The one thing the rebels cannot afford is to suffer heavy losses by battering themselves to pieces at the gates of Aleppo.  With their advance stalled on the outskirts of Aleppo that however is precisely the prospect the rebels are now facing.”

It is precisely because the Jihadis chose to get bogged down in a battle of attrition in Aleppo that they could not afford and which they have now lost that their position not just in Aleppo but elsewhere in western Syria is now collapsing.  I suspect the same will also prove to be true in Idlib when the Syrian army eventually attacks it.

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BARR: No collusion by any Americans

Trump never used his powers to interfere with Mueller, and thus had no “corrupt intent” in the matter.

Alex Christoforou

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Attorney General Barr found no one in the Trump campaign colluded with “Russia” to meddle in the 2016 US election.

A devastating blow to Democrats and their mainstream media stenographers.

Trump reacted immediately…

Via RT…

With the full report on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into claims President Donald Trump colluded with Russia about to be released, Attorney General William Barr is giving a press conference about its findings.

Barr maintains the allegation that the Russian government made efforts to interfere in the election through the Internet Research Agency, an alleged Kremlin-control “troll farm”, as well as “hacking efforts” by the Russian intelligence agency GRU.

The bottom line, Barr says, is that Mueller has found Russia tried to interfere in the election, but “no American” helped it.

Barr explained the White House’s interaction with the Mueller report, whether Trump used executive privilege to block any of its contents from release, as well as on how the Justice Department chose which bits of the 400-page paper to redact.

On the matter of obstruction of justice, Barr said he and his deputy Rod Rosenstein have reviewed Mueller’s evidence and “legal theories”, and found that there is no evidence to show Trump tried to disrupt the investigation.

He said Trump never used his powers to interfere with Mueller, and thus had no “corrupt intent” in the matter.

Most of the redactions in the report were made to protect ongoing investigations and personal information of “peripheral third parties”.

Barr said that no-one outside the Justice Department took part in the redacting process or saw the unredacted version, except for the intelligence community, which was given access to parts of it to protect sources.

Trump did not ask to make any changes to Mueller’s report, Barr said.

Trump’s personal counsel was given access to the redacted report before its release.

A number of Trump-affiliated people, as well as Russian nationals, have been indicted, charged or put on trial by Mueller over the course of the past two years, but none for election-related conspiracy. Still, Democrats in Congress as well as numerous establishment media personalities have been insisting that Barr, a Trump pick for AG office, is somehow “spinning” its findings in order to protect and exonerate Trump, and are calling to see the full report as soon as possible.

They have equally condemned Barr’s decision to hold a news conference before the report is release, claiming he is trying to shape the public perception in Trump’s favor.

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Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Important events have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks that underline how the overall political reconfiguration of the region is in full swing. The Shia axis continues its diplomatic relations and, following Rouhani’s meeting in Baghdad, it was the turn of Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be received in Tehran by the highest government and religious authorities. Among the many statements released, two in particular reveal the high level of cooperation between the two countries, as well as demonstrating how the Shia axis is in full bloom, carrying significant prospects for the region. Abdul-Mahdi also reiterated that Iraq will not allow itself to be used as a platform from which to attack Iran: “Iraqi soil will not be allowed to be used by foreign troops to launch any attacks against Iran. The plan is to export electricity and gas for other countries in the region.”

Considering that these two countries were mortal enemies during Saddam Hussein’s time, their rapprochement is quite a (geo)political miracle, owing much of its success to Russia’s involvement in the region. The 4+1 coalition (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria plus Hezbollah) and the anti-terrorism center in Baghdad came about as a result of Russia’s desire to coordinate all the allied parties in a single front. Russia’s military support of Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah (together with China’s economic support) has allowed Iran to begin to transform the region such that the Shia axis can effectively counteract the destabilizing chaos unleashed by the trio of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

One of the gaps to be filled in the Shia axis lies in Lebanon, which has long experienced an internal conflict between the many religious and political currents in the country. The decision by Washington to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel pushed the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, to make an important symbolic visit to Moscow to meet with President Putin.

Once again, the destabilizing efforts of the Saudis, Israelis and Americans are having the unintended effect of strengthening the Shia axis. It seems that this trio fails to understood how such acts as murdering Khashoggi, using civilian planes to hide behind in order to conduct bombing runs in Syria, recognizing the occupied territories like the Golan Heights – how these produce the opposite effects to the ones desired.

The supply of S-300 systems to Syria after the downing of the Russian reconnaissance plane took place as a result of Tel Aviv failing to think ahead and anticipate how Russia may respond.

What is surprising in Moscow’s actions is the versatility of its diplomacy, from the deployment of the S-300s in Syria, or the bombers in Iran, to the prompt meetings with Netanyahu in Moscow and Mohammad bin Salman at the G20. The ability of the Russian Federation to mediate and be present in almost every conflict on the globe restores to the country the international stature that is indispensable in counterbalancing the belligerence of the United States.

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange. Another military and economic example can be found in a third axis; not the Shia or Saudi-Israeli-US one but the Turkish-Qatari one. In Syria, Erdogan started from positions that were exactly opposite to those of Putin and Assad. But with decisive military action and skilled diplomacy, the creation of the Astana format between Iran, Turkey and Russia made Turkey and Qatar publicly take the defense of Islamist takfiris and criminals in Idlib. Qatar for its part has a two-way connection with Turkey, but it is also in open conflict with the Saudi-Israeli axis, with the prospect of abandoning OPEC within a few weeks. This situation has allowed Moscow to open a series of negotiations with Doha on the topic of LNG, with these two players controlling most of the LNG on the planet. It is evident that also the Turkish-Qatari axis is strongly conditioned by Moscow and by the potential military agreements between Turkey and Russia (sale of S-400) and economic and energy agreements between Moscow and Doha.

America’s actions in the region risks combining the Qatari-Turkish front with the Shia axis, again thanks to Moscow’s skilful diplomatic work. The recent sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, together with the withdrawal from the JCPOA (the Iranian nuclear agreement), has created concern and bewilderment in the region and among Washington’s allies. The act of recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as belonging to Israel has brought together the Arab world as few events have done in recent times. Added to this, Trump’s open complaints about OPEC’s high pricing of oil has forced Riyadh to start wondering out aloud whether to start selling oil in a currency other than the dollar. This rumination was quickly denied, but it had already been aired. Such a decision would have grave implications for the petrodollar and most of the financial and economic power of the United States.

If the Shia axis, with Russian protection, is strengthened throughout the Middle East, the Saudi-Israel-American triad loses momentum and falls apart, as seen in Libya, with Haftar now one step closer in unifying the country thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russia, with Fayez al-Sarraj now abandoned by the Italians and Americans awaiting his final defeat.

While the globe continues its multipolar transformation, the delicate balancing role played by Russia in the Middle East and North Africa is emphasized. The Venezuelan foreign minister’s recent visit to Syria shows how the front opposed to US imperialist bullying is not confined to the Middle East, with countries in direct or indirect conflict with Washington gathering together under the same protective Sino-Russian umbrella.

Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with the conviction of American exceptionalism, is driving international relations towards two poles rather than multipolar ones, pushing China, Russia and all other countries opposed to the US to unite in order to collectively resist US diktats.

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Nigel Farage stuns political elite, as Brexit Party and UKIP surge in polls (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 144.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party’s stunning rise in the latest UK polls, which show Tory support splintering and collapsing to new lows. Theresa May’s Brexit debacle has all but destroyed the Conservative party, which is now seeing voters turn to UKIP and The Brexit Party.

Corbyn’s Labour Party is not finding much favor from UK voters either, as anger over how Britain’s two main parties conspired to sell out the country to EU globalists, is now being voiced in various polling data ahead of EU Parliament elections.

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Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk:


The Guardian reports Tories Hit by New Defections and Slump in Opinion Polls as Party Divide Widens.

The bitter fallout from Brexit is threatening to break the Tory party apart, as a Europhile former cabinet minister Stephen Dorrell on Sunday announces he is defecting to the independent MPs’ group Change UK, and a new opinion poll shows Conservative support plummeting to a five-year low as anti-EU parties surge.

The latest defections come as a new Opinium poll for the Observer shows a dramatic fall in Tory support in the past two weeks and a surge for anti-EU parties. The Conservatives have fallen by six percentage points to 29% compared to a fortnight ago. It is their worst position since December 2014. Labour is up one point on 36% while Ukip is up two points on 11%.

Even more alarmingly for the Tories, their prospects for the European elections appear dire. Only 17% of those certain to vote said they would choose the Conservatives in the European poll, while 29% would back Labour, and 25% either Ukip (13%) or Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party (12%).

YouGov Poll

A more recent YouGov Poll looks even worse for the Tories

In the YouGov poll, UKIP and BREX total 29%.

Polls Volatile

Eurointellingence has these thoughts on the polls.

We have noted before that classic opinion polls at a time like this are next to useless. But we found an interesting constituency-level poll, by Electoral Calculus, showing for the first time that Labour would get enough constituency MPs to form a minority government with the support of the SNP. This is a shift from previous such exercises, which predicted a continuation of the status quo with the Tories still in command.

This latest poll, too, is subject to our observation of massively intruding volatility. It says that some of the Tory’s most prominent MPs would be at risk, including Amber Rudd and Iain Duncan-Smith. And we agree with the bottom-line analysis of John Curtice, the pollster, who said the abrupt fall in support for Tories is due entirely to their failure to have delivered Brexit on time.

The Tories are facing two electoral tests in May – local elections on May 2 and European elections on May 23. Early polls are show Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party shooting up, taking votes away from the Tories. If European elections were held, we would expect the Brexit party to come ahead of the Tories. Labour is rock-solid in the polls, but Labour unity is at risk as the pro-referendum supporters want Jeremy Corbyn to put the second referendum on the party’s manifesto.

Tory Labour Talks

The Tory/Labour talks on a compromise have stalled, but are set to continue next week with three working groups: on security, on environmental protection, and on workers’ rights. A separate meeting is scheduled between Philip Hammond and John McDonnell, the chancellor and shadow chancellor. The big outstanding issue is the customs union. Theresa May has not yet moved on this one. We noted David Liddington, the effective deputy prime minister, saying that the minimum outcome of the talks would be an agreed and binding decision-making procedure to flush out all options but one in a series of parliamentary votes.

May’s task is to get at least half of her party on board for a compromise. What makes a deal attractive to the Tories is that May would resign soon afterwards, giving enough time for the Tory conference in October to select a successor before possible elections in early 2020.

This relative alignment of interests is why we would not rule out a deal – either on an agreed joint future relationship, or at least on a method to deliver an outcome.

Customs Union

A customs union, depending on how it is structured, would likely be worse than remaining. The UK would have to abide by all the EU rules and regulations without having any say.

Effectively, it will not be delivering Brexit.

Perhaps May’s deal has a resurrection.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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