Syria Daily, Sept 19: Congress Approves $500 Million to Train & Arm 5,000 Insurgents


LATEST: 1000s of Kurdish Civilians, Fleeing Islamic State Advance, Allowed Into Turkey

The US Congress has passed President Obama’s proposal for $500 million to train and arm about 5,000 “moderate” Syria’s insurgents over a period of several months.

The Senate, the upper chamber of Congress, voted 78-22 on Thursday for the funding, intended to bolster the insurgency in a fight against the Islamic State. The House of Representatives approved the legislation 273-156 on Wednesday.

Obama requested the $500 million months ago, when the issue was of bolstering the insurgency against the Assad regime in the 42-month Syrian conflict. Legislators have been divided over the request, with some sceptical of US support of opposition fighters — often saying that weapons would reach “extremists” — and others saying the plan did not go far enough in bolstering the insurgents.

1000s of Kurdish Civilians, Fleeing Islamic State Advance, Allowed Into Turkey

Turkish media report that thousands of residents, fleeing an Islamic State offensive in northern Syria, have finally been allowed into Turkey.

Earlier, an activist and Kurdish media reported that 7,000 to 10,000 civilians were blocked by Turkish soldiers on the border.

The jihadists have seized a series of village near the Kurdish center of Kobane (Ayn al-Arab), firing rockets on the town.

Trapped Residents at Risk from “Manufactured Drought” in Yarmouk Section of Damascus

The Yarmouk section of Damascus, long beset by shortages of food and medicine, is suffering from a cut-off of water since September 8.

Talat Alyun writes on the Beyond Compromise blog that water services had already been restricted, with only a couple of hours’ supply every few days, before the full halt. Alyun claims that the Syrian regime is engineering a drought to put pressure on the area, occupied by insurgents since last year.

Activists claim 172 people have been killed by the conditions of a 14-month siege by the Syrian military. They warn that, with the water crisis, typhoid may spread as residents turn to old wells.

Video: Insurgents Advance in West Ghouta, Near Belt of Regime Bases South of Damascus

Insurgents, supported by video, claim they have taken Deir Addas in the West Ghouta area near Damascus:

A clip has been posted of dozens of bodies of regime troops.

Footage of anti-tank guided missiles seized in the battle:

Opposition fighters are seeking to link West Ghouta with the territory that they control in Daraa Province in southern Syria.

Meanwhile, the insurgents are nearing a belt of major regime bases south of Damascus that protect the capital.

Video: Insurgents Take al-Dukhaniya Neighborhood Near Damascus

Video of the al-Dukhaniya neighborhood in Damascus (see map), claimed by insurgents last week:

Insurgents claimed that they killed many Syrian troops and captured more than 40, as well as taking nearby checkpoints, in their fightback against the regime’s capture of Mleha in the East Ghouta area last month.

Syrian Army Claims Advance Against Islamic State in Hasakah in Northeast

Syrian State media, citing a “military source”, says regime forces are consolidating their re-capture of the Qhweiran section of Hasakah city.

The Islamic State had occupied the area during its offensive this summer throughout northeastern Syria.

The military said it had defeated “terrorists”, dismantling dozens of explosive devices, and is restoring security so residents could return to their homes.

Death Toll Again Above 100 on Thursday

For the fourth day this week, the confirmed death toll across Syria topped 100, according to the Local Coordination Committees.

The LCC say 107 people were killed on Thursday, including 65 in Aleppo Province, 17 in Damascus and its suburbs and 15 in Hasakeh Province.

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    • Makes some interesting points but ultimately the moderate rebels are a bigger threat to Assads power than IS. Don’t expect him to agree to a ceasefire, or honour one of he does.

  1. ah i see that “western ghouta” i worthless desert land outside damascus, behind the anti israeli invasion perimiter.

    good luck rebels lol

    • I saw some very nice houses in the youtube videos of the areas the rebels captured. Also, I saw a lot of trees in Deir Addas. I certainly wouldn’t mind living there if bombs weren’t falling over me.

      • When Damascus falls, he will say its a useless desert city anyway or that the SAA is just retreating to surround it all and flush out the terrorists (same story as in Aleppo)

        When the revolution goes to any city and wins, that city becomes “useless”
        I wonder what these Assadist fanboys will say when this happens in Tehran??

        • “Oh please, everyone knows the Tishreen Palace Grounds are worthless desert. Bashar Al Assad’s en suite bathroom is and always has been the key to the control of Damascus and all Syria, now that the Republican Guard is mere days away from retaking it, total victory for the Syrian government is inevitable,”

          Ali Bistani, this time next year.

  2. I put this out there late yesterday but wanted to continue this discussion.

    For those who are arguing that the TOW missiles won’t make a difference in Syria.

    Number of TOW ATGM videos from Syria by month
    April – 9
    May – 14
    June – 14
    July – 33
    Aug – 32
    Sept – Still counting but currently 30+.

    Definitely an upward trend. I’ve argued that this is one of the most cost effective ways to help the rebels. The cost per missile is around $35K per missile (at least this is what I remember from the late 90′s). The rebels are getting the older TOW2 missiles from KSA as the US is restocking KSA with the new variants.

    An obvious approach is to expand the TOW program. With air support, the rebels should be far more effective as Islamic State armor can be forced away from fortified positions.

    Hazm Movement is just one small FSA unit that are receiving these and Hazm operate in Idlib I believe. I used them as an example. TOWs are being used wherever the vetted FSA units are located (Daraa/Idlib) mostly but also in Aleppo, Latakia, Damascus, Hama, Homs.

    TOWs are such an effective weapon for the US military because they can support the TOW unit with heavy machine guns and air support. If the rebels get this I would expect the TOW to be a greater asset than it is today. The training needed for the TOW is not just the use of how to fire a TOW missile and assemble the launcher which is not incredibly hard. The training would incorporate of how to support the TOW gunner with heavy weaponry. A lot of videos you see are the rebels sneaking up firing a TOW to take out armor and running away before they get fired upon. It’s hard to take a fortified position this way but it’s the current strategy they are forced to employ. With heavy weapons they could better coordinate these assaults to completely take fortified positions.

    I believe they the rebels are still required to film each launch and return the empty canisters. As groups gain trust I would hope that these restrictions would be lifted as this lessens their effectiveness.

  3. “Meanwhile, the insurgents are nearing a belt of major regime bases south of Damascus that protect the capital.”

    Anyone able to provide better evidence for this? which bases? I’m in the process mapping out all military basis in syria (at least those on wikimapia) and matching them with rebel gains, adn I don’t see any evidence of this. They are still along way away from reaching the 1st armoured base or army brigade 165. Is this referring to : sanamyn, ghabagheb, mothbeen.

    • Look at this link on wikimapia.

      The rebels took Deir al-Adas recently. The regime retreated to Deir al-Bakht. From Deir Al-Adas look to the Northeast about 5km. There are army bases all over Southern Damascus. They are one village away from brigade 165 it seems reasonable to say they have nearly reached the belt of major regime bases south of the capital. Pro-regime sources can downplay these advances all they want but the facts are the rebels have the momentum in Damascus right now. Any rebel advances near Damascus are a bigger blow for the regime than anywhere else.

      Keep in mind that this is an insurgency not a conventional war. The rebels strategy currently is not to take these bases right now but to build supply lines from their strongholds in the rear. The bases are there as a line of defense against a conventional army which of course would be Israel. These supply lines run through villages and towns where they have local support. I imagine that the goal is to draw the armor out of these bases when they come to defend regime territory or attack the rebels. Then they can employ the guerrilla type warfare they are doing now.

      Last comment is that just because these bases are huge doesn’t mean they are more formidable. The regime has a harder time protecting large bases than smaller bases. The perimeter is much larger and harder to defend. Look at Aleppo prison, the remaining airbase in Idlib, Wadi Deif. These bases are not particularly large in area.


    Kurds have appealed for US intervention in Kobane where their situation is dire and a massacre possible.

    As Malcomite observes, “The US is willing to give air cover to Iran and its proxies in Iraq but no to Syrian rebels or Kurds in Syria.” When Obama promises “we will not ally with Assad and Iran” ignore his words at look at his deeds, which say the opposite.


    Kerry admitted the regime has repeated engaged in chemical attacks since, which means there is no longer reason to hold off on pounding Assad’s bases. Kerry also said: “there is evidence that Assad has played footsie” with ISIL. So far so good. But then he goes on to suggest he’d consider allying with genocidal Iran and genocidal Assad against the Sunnis.

    From a Defected Syrian Diplomat


    Excerpt: “There is always a plan, opportunities are never missed, and there are no accidents: the rise of ISIS is no exception to this rule…ISIS’s role in Syria fits into a plan that has worked for Assad on several occasions. When a crisis emerges, Assad pushes his opponents to spend as much time as possible in developing a response. While implementing such diplomatic stalls, he floods the crisis with distractions designed to divert attention away from Syrian government misdeeds. His favorite diversion is terrorism, because it establishes him as a necessary force to contain it. In the meantime, world events wash away international focus on the initial crisis.”


    Recently the rebels opened up supply and reinforcement lines to western Ghouta by ending a seiege and connecting Damascus with Quneitras and Ghouta. They grabbed two neighborhoods near central Damascus and now are at the doors of a third, the Dweila District. Tazi Morocco who observes “Most interesting thing isn’t that Rebels managed to control Dukhaniya, but the fact they resisted a huge offensive.”

    Failed offensives and year long pyrrhic victories are the last thing a highly attrited regime incapable of attracting recruits in country can afford right now. South of Damascus, rebels added to an unending string of rebel victories as they captured Deir Addas yesterday, sending NDF forces fleeing with losts of dead guys left behind and placing numerous regime forces in Al Harra to the southwest at risk of being cut off behind enemy lines. While doing so they captured the lieutenant in the photo below, known one of the worst war c criminals in norther Daraa Province.

    The regime would love a major victory in a place like Jobar, where offensive after offensive, chemical weapons attacks and endless barrel bombing has failed over two months. Meanwhile, despite endless attempts, especially in Jobar, the regime hasn’t won a battle in Damascus in well over a month—not even a minor itsy bitsy one that I can recall. Its last “victory” (Mieha) was indisputably pyrrhic—unlike the rebel ones which have come with remarkable speed as of late.

    Mieha required dozens of offensives, more than a thousand dead troops, more than 100 lost tanks and hundreds more captured or surrendered during endless months of trying. Yet even now the regime remains under attack there. I’m certain it has been forced to retain a substantial number of forces in the area just to stay in place. The best it can do now is to kill Palestinians in Yarmouk by depriving them of water, an awful death and a move if, should it continue, could force Obama’s hand.

    So what is the answer to my lead question? A minor explanation due to become more important later is the recent rebel breakthrough south of Damascus which also lessons the value of taking Mlieha. The The central problem, I suspect, is that Assad is being forced to siphon off too many forces from Damascus to too many fronts (Hama, Morek and north, Qalamoun, Quinetra, Daraa, Idlib Salimeyeh) and in others (Deir Ezzor, Aleppo, Harsakah) he has too many forces irrevocably tied up too far from its core.

    The area south of Damascus may be base rich but could it be thinner in reliable manpower than most people think? I doubt Assad has been able to reinforce at all on some of so many fronts. Where he has pout in the biggest effort ((a counteroffensive in Hama) the attack appears to have sputtered lately. Yesterday rebels retook Al-Zilaqiat & barrier at crossing only some hours after lost.—Markioto0171.

    Sometimes a draw is not a draw except when viewed through the regime’s rose-colored glasses. Exchanges like that must be viewed in terms of a key rebel strategy: picking away at the regimes’s diminishing manpower like a raw sore. While the regime engages in these tit-for-tat affairs or even worse endless assaults in places like Morek, Jobar and Mlieha, rebels not only take quickie after quickie but show much greater ability to hold such gains afterwards and expand on them. Aggravating the regime’s manpower shortage it must now fight two formidable enemies–not just one and do so with less. Many former allies are tied up in Iraq and while its own loyalists and troops are balking at an increasing rate. See recent arrests and execution of its own troops, the recent ban on foreign travel by any troops and new checkpoints looking for fleeing draftees.
    Rebels have the opposite problem: an excess of fighters and a shortage of weapons to arm them. For all the nonsense about how they are “virtually done” ( aline the regime promotes along with the claim they are all Islamic extremists) consider two pieces of evidence: First, the speeding up of rebel gains in so many places—gains which unlike the regime’s rare ones are easily held and expanded. Secondly, note the recent rebel complaint to Obama: “We have plenty of fighters. All we need is weapons.” This explains two things: why the rebels can replace losses and why they don’t copy from the Kurds and massively increase their “men” at arms by including women, a yet-to-be-tapped source.

  6. So I’ve mapped out most of the military areas in Syria at this point, to try and make sense of the significance of some of these offensives and most importantly help distinguish between strategy and tactical victory. A strategic victory for the Rebels cannot happen unless it involves degrading regime capacity to defend populated area, i.e. by taking over regime bases and increasing the area it can permanently defend and control or destroying helicopters/planes/runways.

    I’ve noticed a few things related to this one:
    1) Rebels have not taken any major military positions, only hills and small outposts.
    2) They have extended their territory only by taking ‘easy targets’ not defended by major military basis.
    3) The regime has retreated back to more tenable positions. They reportedly will defend Kafr Shams, and also have existing fortifications along the Quenitra-Damascus highway and Tel Herra.

    Thus, it is hard to make out the strategic conclusions out of all of this as the offensive is largely untested.
    We can make assumptions that at the very least this offensive is designed to relieve pressure on the rebels elsewhere and undercut the Assad narrative of victory. These are tactical goals.

    We cannot assume whether rebels intend to hold these positions longer term, or make inroads into Ghouta or cut off the Deraa-Damascus of Quentira-Damascus highways.

    According to my maps, however, the only soft target left in the area is southwest of Jasim/Inkheil (and I think this analysis is likely due to outdate maps) So other than this, the rebels will have to make a move that reveals their strategic intention in this offensive if there is one.

    The first test of whether there is real bite in this offensive could be at Kafr Shams – the regime is defending it, but does not appear to have entrenched positions. Taking it would give rebels option to fully siege Tel Herra or push to Army Brigade 15th and 9th division base, giving them greater options with only a medium level of effort, and without giving clear indications on what their goal is. At the same time, the regime does not want to give it up easily like it did elsewhere. If the rebels can take it, it would suggest they have substance to their military effort.

    We still will not however have a good idea of the Rebel’s strategic intent. A few indicators would be:
    1. A substantial assault on Herra and/or Army Base 90 would suggest Rebels plan to change permanently the front-line, either to threat Damascus-Derra road or establish supply lines to Western Ghouta. Moving towards Harfa would also indicate a desire to strengthen western Ghouta operations.
    2. Movement to Sasa or Kanaker would give strong evidence that this offensive is designed to provide (temporary) supply lines to Western Ghouta.

    • I do agree with your analysis for the most part. The rebels are picking the softer targets as they don’t have the firepower to take the more difficult targets and/or they don’t think that taking the harder targets is worth the effort. I think the rebels are taking a more balanced approach than they did towards the beginning of the insurgency. For example in Quneitra in the recent offensive, they took a number of fortified hills and towns before taking the crossing and town. The first time they took the crossing they left a number of these fortified positions at their rear. Of course the ultimate goal is Damascus so building supply lines to there is important even if they have to leave some regime bases at their rear.

    • RE: Rebels have not taken any major military positions, only hills and small outposts and
      RE: They have extended their territory only by taking ‘easy targets’ not defended by major military basis.

      Both smart moves by an insurgency. Leaving high ground regime positions with artillery would be crazy. Taking small outposts makes sense. Regime gets stuck with holding strong positions that rebels should not waste mobile resources on taking. Seize the countryside first. Force the regime on the offensive not vice versa agains strong positions. The regime should hope the rebels would be so strategically foolish.

      RE: The regime has retreated back to more tenable positions. They reportedly will defend Kafr Shams, and also have existing fortifications along the Quenitra-Damascus highway and Tel Herra.

      In other words the regime has retreated and given up the countryside. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Hint: who benefits mosty from this situation?

      If the rebels cut off Al Harrah and force the regime to relieve it by abandoning strong positions further north, how is that not a good move for them?

      Regime takes losses on an offensive that even it successfully is unlikely to hold that position long term. The attacking troops are far more vulnerable than back at base, are they not? Better kill them in the field than attack them in their bastions. The bases themselves are weakened by any withdrawal, capture and defeat of any troops sent south.

      • Please note, I think it is a smart strategy on the rebels part, but I think it also undercuts any optimistic narrative about rebels being on the verge of reaching Damascus. Recent events have really revealed little about who is winning/losing, as they are as of yet, only tactical, not strategic moves and only reinforce that this is a dynamic stalemate (not even a mutually escalating stalemate).

    • I do see something clear about the rebel strategy in Quneitra. Based on the rebel moves near Harra, it does not look like they are planning a direct assault. They have taken Aqrabah to the north, Nimer to the south and all villages to the west. They are very close to Zimrin, which is the last open supply route to Harra. Think it’s there’s a good chance we will be seeing a protracted siege rather than an all out assault. Although, it’s questionable whether the regime has the forces to defend the eastern approaches. Geographically, this is the weak point of Harra. If the rebels enter through there, the regime is definitely in big trouble. No supplies except by air, rebels holding strong positions close enough to aim direct fire at the hill…

      In short, if the regime gives up Zimrin and does not evacuate Harra, it would lead to two possible conclusions (not mutually exclusive):

      A) The SAA general commanding the southern front is an idiot.

      B) SAA is biding time. If this is what they are doing, question is what are they waiting for? Will they be pulling forces back from Hama? Or are they stalling due to lack of a clear battle plan?

      I’ve said earlier, Harra needs to be taken to secure the flank of the advance on the Kafr Shams – Sanamayn line, the last defensible positions before the Damascus perimeter.

      Incidentally, the capture of Deir Addas is weakening Kafr Shams. It cuts the direct supply line from Damascus, forcing all supplies intended for Kafr Shams through Sanamayn.

      • Typically, an insurgency against a foreign colonial power (e.g. Vietnam, Algeria in the 1950’s, Afghanistan) wins by convincing the colonial power to give up and to home. An insurgency against a domestic dictatorship (e.g. Cuba, China) has to progress to the point where they can control a significant area of the country, set up a conventional military and take the major cities by force. By that point, the government forces are sufficiently weakened by the Guerilla war that the rebel conventional army doesn’t even need to be particularly big. The Islamist rebels in Algeria in the 1990’s, took large parts of the countryside, had a significant degree of popular support but were never able to take any major cities. Ultimately, they lost.

        One of the distinguishing features of the Syrian civil war has been that the government has tried to prevent the rebels doing this by bombing and starving civilian concentrations in rebel-controlled areas, forcing refugees out of the country entirely.

        The question is whether the US-backed bases in Jordan and Turkey can support that transition.

  7. 2 more villages taken by SAA in Hama reported by SOHR

    Rebels unable to hold a line, The army is at the southern and western gate of Lataminah and close to Kfar Zita a few kms north.

    If rebels can’t hold these, they are done in Hama and I don’t see what could prevent the army forces from retaking Khan Shaikoun.

    Next few day will be crucial for rebels to judge if their offensive was a big failure or rather a complete disaster.


    “Three years ago rebels couldn’t capture a single defended position. Now, they’ve fought from the Jordan border all the way to Damascus.” –The Prisoner

    Rebels fought six enemies at once, while lacking an air force, while their enemies got endless arms via Putin and Iran and while they were backstrabbed endlessly by Obama and western democracies proving the worthlessness of the latter model which they once thought attractive.


    “With SAA soliders captured from the 17th Division base digging their own graves and claiming their officers fled.”


    The Free Syrian Army dispatched forces to Kobani to assist Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS. It would be nice if they had air cover. \

    Does Obama the Great want ISIS to win this battle? Is he waiting for Kurds and FSA to get slaughtered, while rushing to help Iran next door in great contrast.
    Why the hesitatio? Obama has always hated and mocked the rebel moderates. I can only judge Obama by his actions and non-actions and NEVER, ever by his words. On that basis he seems determined–just like Assad–to radicalize the opposition.


    Don’t worry. Obama didn’t supply them. He did help Kurds in Iraq but not in Syria. We all know his covert reasons for acting swiftly in one case and not acting in almost four years by contrast in Syria. Sunnis are especially aware as they should be.


    Airplanes and mass transit are also big targets. Yet ignorant and lazy Rand Paul-style members of Congressmen complained to Kerry yesterday that Obama’s idea to arm the rebels was a bad because they would attack the regime that promoted terror and extremism in the first place.

    Any can find out how the regime spend 3 ½ years terrorizing Sunnis, working with ISIS and releasing Islamists from its jails just so it could con lazy souls like the above. The reality Is that nothing could damage ISIS more than the removal of the Assad regime on whose crimes it feeds.

    CSM: Why Senate vote on training Syrian rebels was a bit unusual (+video)

    • Kurds have been losing ground quickly at Kobane the last few days.

      But I expect huge mobilization from fighters in Hasakah (who have been advancing quickly too near Tall Hamis against ISIS) and the mobilization form YPG fighters who are helping the peshmergas in Iraq. Kurds are very mobilized.

  9. One of the ongoing arguments in the comments section here is the question of which side has the great reserves of manpower to draw on.

    One point that hasn’t been raised is that besides weapons and training, US-backed units get money to pay their troops. They get $900 per month per man. That’s more than ISIL pays and way more than the SAA pays.

    There are probably tens of thousands of men in the refugee camps desperate enough to sign up for the money regardless of any ideological commitment.

  10. The Syrian “Army” is turning into simply the largest of the sectarian militias picking at Syria’s bones.

    “But the army is no longer capable of the kind of large-scale ground operations and like most of the rebel groups, it is seen as unable to win large areas of territory quickly.

    “They are stretched and they have been stretched since at least 2012. They are engaged on many fronts, the complexity and size and the type of operations have changed compared to 2012,” a Western official who follows developments in Syria said.

    “In 2011 and 2012 a whole unit could be dispatched into somewhere like Homs, they would carry out complex operations. If you look at what they are doing there now, the numbers are down,” the official added.”

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