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Political Information Last Updated: Dec 29, 2018 - 7:23:11 PM

Syria Sitrep - The Turkish-Russian Agreement Holds - S-300 Air Defense Arrives
By Moon of Alabama
Oct 10, 2018 - 3:58:22 AM

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The situation in Syria is relatively calm. The government (red) has consolidated the areas it retook during the year. The Syrian army received new air defense (see below) and other materials and is busy integrating it. Some Syrian army units are currently moving east to Al Bukamal on the border with Iraq. Others have been sent to their home bases.


The only place where the Syrian army is still actively engaged is in the southern desert near As-Suwayda where some 1-2,000 ISIS fighters (grey) hold on to a small enclave in the mid of a large area of volcanic rock. The terrain is difficult to cross with tanks and the infantry fight there is bloody.

The Turkish Russian agreement over a demilitarized zone in the 'rebel' controlled Idleb government seems to hold.


The 'rebels' controlled by Turkey have moved their heavy equipment (tanks and artillery) out of the demilitarized area (ocher). The jihadi factions, Tahrir al Sham and the Turkmens around Jisr al Shugur, are not following the agreement. The Syrian Observatory reports that they dug ditches to hide their weapons in place. It is Turkey's responsibility to remove them. The assassination campaign in Idleb governorate continues with now more than 380 casualties. Some mid-level commander of this or that group gets killed each day. It is not know who - ISIS sleeper cells, the Turkish MIT or Russian spetsnaz - is behind the campaign.

A similar troubled area is the Kurdish canton Afrin in the northwest which Turkish troops and associated 'rebel' gangs occupied. There is an immense amount of looting going on and the various groups fight each other.

In the eastern Deir Ezzor governorate the U.S. military and its Kurdish proxy force (yellow) is still fighting against entrenched ISIS forces (grey).


Those forces had been left alone for nearly a year and used the time to dig in. The attackers take casualties from IED's and ISIS sleeper cells. U.S. and British forces bomb the area several times per day and French and U.S. artillery is adding to the carnage. Still, the progress seems to be extremely slow. There are unconfirmed reports that U.S. marines came in to reinforce the unwilling Kurdish proxy force. Some of the ISIS fighters crossed the Euphrates to attack government controlled (red) areas but were defeated.

While the overview map shows triangle south of Deir Ezzor city as ISIS held (grey) there have been no reports of any recent activities in that desert area.

The U.S. controlled al-Tanf zone in the south east (marked green) is relatively quiet. The U.S. soldiers there still train some local goons but there is no reasonable future for that position. The ten thousands of family members of 'rebel' and ISIS fighters in the nearby Rukban refugee camp on the border to Jordan are desperate. Jordan does not allow any supply for them. Food is smuggled in from government controlled areas but the people ran out of money and can not pay for it:

When the US cut funding for FSA-affiliated factions operating in the eastern Badia desert last year, hundreds of fighters lost their primary source of income, which had often been used to support family members living in Rukban, Ahmad al-Abdo Brigade spokesperson Seif says.

There have been negotiations with the Syrian government to move some 'rebels' and their families from Rukban to the north into the Turkish controlled zone but several announcements of such a move passed without any transfer happening.

Russia donated three battalion sets of S-300PM air defense systems to Syria. Each battalion headquarter has an acquisition radar and a command post. There are two companies (batteries) to a battalion. Typically each company has a fire direction radar and a fire control vehicle. There are four missile launchers in a company with four missile canisters each. Two additional vehicles carry spare ammunition and have cranes to reload the launchers. Each battalion will receive 100 missiles, enough to fight off several waves of attacks. The spares can be transported on normal truck trailers. The system is very flexible. Additional launchers can be added to a company and radar information can be shared.

The systems are relatively modern and still widely used within Russia's own air defense. The systems Syria received are used ones from Russian battalions which recently upgraded to the new S-400 systems. They were refurbished before being delivered to Syria. The S-300PM systems are mounted on wheel based vehicles. They arrived by air transport (vid) from Russia. To protect the long-range S-300 air defenses each company will likely be accompanied by a Pantsyr-S1 short range air defense systems. In addition to the air defense systems Syria also received Karsukha-4 electronic warfare systems which allow to detect and jam enemy radio traffic and radar.

One of the battalions will likely stay in Latakia governorate and reinforce the Russian air defense already stationed there. Another battalion will protect Damascus. The third battalion is a bit of a wild card. It could either stay in west Syria near Homs to reinforce the other units or move east to Palmyra or even to Deir Ezzor to give the U.S. contingent there some thought.

The newly positioned 96 ready-to-launch S-300 missiles will make it difficult for Israel to continue its attacks on Syria. Israel would love to to do so but the only way it might be able to continue its attacks is by flying its jets very low over Lebanon to be covered by the mountain range towards Syria. They would then have to 'pop-up' to fire their missiles into Syria but there is no guarantee that the firing jets would survive. Flying low over Lebanon also entails the risk of a surprise meeting with one of Hezbullah's short range air defense missiles.

The Syrian president Bashar al Assad just issued a decree that grants amnesty to those who deserted the army or ran away from serving their conscription time. If the deserters and draft dodgers turn themselves in within the next six month to fulfill their service they will escape all punishment.

The Gulf Arabs, except Qatar which is allied with Turkey, have given up on removing President Assad and are making nice:

In one of the more surprising developments amid a flurry of diplomatic meetings surrounding the U.N. General Assembly, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa was seen greeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem with hugs and kisses at a pan-Arab meeting last week. Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, has been a vocal critic of Assad and other regional allies of Iran, but the top diplomat said: "the Syrian government is the ruler in Syria and we work with countries even if we disagree with them."

Days later, Assad conducted his first interview with an Arabian Peninsula newspaper since 2011, telling Kuwait's Al-Shahed that he had reached a "major understanding" with a number of Arab states and that "Western and Arab delegations have already begun to come to Syria to arrange their return, whether diplomatic, economic or industrial."

This change in the Arab rulers sentiment might well influence the U.S. position in Syria.

Posted by b on October 9, 2018

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