Syria Daily, March 15: Putin’s Surprise Announcement of Russian Withdrawal


PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin “Our goals are generally fulfilled”



Analysis: A 5-Point Guide to Putin and Russia’s “Withdrawal”
Video Feature: The 5th-Anniversary Protests

UPDATE 1430 GMT: Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV says Russian warplanes have continued attacks on the Islamic State, supporting a ground offensive by the Syrian military in central Syria.

Russia has backed the advance towards Palmyra, the Roman-era city in Homs Province captured by ISIS last May.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov had told a ceremony in Moscow that bombing would continue:

Certain positive results have been reached. A real chance has emerged to bring an end to the long-time conflict and violence. However, it is early to speak about the victory over terrorism now.

Russia’s aviation group has the task to continue delivering strikes on the facilities of terrorists.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian State TV said the first group of warplanes had left the Hmeimim airbase in western Syria, with footage of soldiers loading an Ilyushin-76 transport plane with equipment.

On Tuesday afternoon, the first aircraft landed at a base near Voronezh in western Syria, with pilots and other personnel greeted by families and friends.

Kremlin chief of staff Sergey Ivanov said remaining Russian forces in Syria will have “protection from the air, the sea, and the ground”, including advanced S-400 air defense systems.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: In an unexpected announcement, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the “main part” of Russia’s forces will leave Syria immediately.

Putin’s announcement came on the first day of renewed political talks in Geneva, raising further questions about the President’s timing.

The President said Russia’s objectives in thousands of airstrikes and support of pro-Assad ground offensives, which began September 30, had been “generally fulfilled”.

However, he did not explain the contradiction between Moscow’s declared focus — the defeat of the Islamic State — and the fact that ISIS remains in place in much of northern and central Syria, including the cities of Raqqa and Palmyra.

Instead, Putin framed the intervention as the creation of “conditions for the start of a peace process” as well as assistance to the Syrian military “to turn the tide in fight against international terrorism”.

The President did not technically halt all Russian military operations, including airstrikes, saying that Russia’s naval base in Tartus and airbase at the Khmeimim airfield will function in “routine mode”, and that Russian ground troops will remain to monitor any ceasefire.

Assad Eventually Responds

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov maintained that the Russia decision was “conveyed to our Syrian colleagues and coordinated with President Assad”. The Syrian Presidency was slow to react, but eventually put out a statement:

The Syrian and Russian sides agreed, during a telephone call between President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, to decrease the number of the Russian air forces in Syria.

Regime supporters on social media initially denied any significance to Putin’s statement before grudgingly accepting it.

Assad’s office was forced by speculation to insist that “Syria and Russia are, as always, together fighting terrorism”.

The opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee quickly welcomed the possibilities of the Russian step. HNC spokesman Salim al-Muslat said:

If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the talks a positive push. If this is a serious step it will form a major element of pressure on the regime, because the Russian support prolonged the regime. Matters will change significantly as a result of that.

However, al-Muslat remained cautious and maintained the opposition’s demand for a complete halt to Russian intervention:

Nobody knows what is in Putin’s mind, but the point is he has no right to be in be our country in the first place. Just go.

Hussam Abu Saad, a member of the Free Syrian Army Southern Front’s General Command, echoed:

Russia’s decision to withdraw came as a surprise, just like its decision to intervene. I’ll say that its withdrawal is a victory surrounded by uncertainty, and surrounded by a lack of faith that they will implement, fully, the troop withdrawal declarations.

US Surprised?

The US, which has worked with Russia to arrange a partial cessation of hostilities and the renewal of political talks for a resolution to Syria’s five-year conflict, appeared to be caught by surprise.

An unnamed official said that Washington was encouraged by Putin’s announcement but that it was too early to establish its significance, its motivation, or even whether the President will carry out the withdrawal.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called the announcement a “positive development” if Russia supported the talks.

On Monday, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura held his initial discussions with the regime delegation, led by UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari.

Jaafari said the “dialogue” was “positive and constructive”.

De Mistura is scheduled to meet the opposition-rebel HNC on Tuesday and the Assad representatives again on Wednesday.

Protests Against Jabhat al-Nusra in Northwest

There have been protests against Jabhat al-Nusra in the northwest Syrian town of Maarat al-Num’an, amid the conflict between the jihadists and the Free Syrian Army’s Division 13.

Reports indicated on Monday that demonstrators and FSA members burned a Nusra headquarters in the town and freed detainees.

Footage has been posted of another protest on Tuesday.

The clashes between Division 13 and Nusra have been building for more than two weeks in Maarat al-Num’an, 33 km (21 miles) south of Idlib city. After raids by Division 13’s troops on Nusra homes and offices earlier this week, fighting escalated on Saturday in the town.

See Syria Daily, March 13: Fighting Between Jabhat al-Nusra and Rebels in Northwest

Jabhat al-Nusra said on Sunday that it would accept the submissions of its disputes with Division 13 to a Sharia court, proposing three “neutral” scholars as judges.

Division 13 says some of its men have been released, but a commander, Zaher al-Ahmed, and four troops are still detained.

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  1. Why announce the withdrawal of substantial forces now unless you intend to do so?.
    Unlike the little green men in the Ukraine, the intervention has mainly involved air power, not land forces with identification removed. Thus, if the “main part:” of Russian forces presently involved in Syria is to be withdrawn, it would be a substantial portion of aircraft shipped to Syria last September since there is little else that would qualify under the above language. If that happens, the impact would be substantial.
    For my most recent analysis of the situation, see “Any Serious Withdrawal of Russia Sources Would Be Bad News for a Number of Parties” which you’ll find near the bottom of the comments section at the link below. Add the Kurds to the parties impacted by such a decision.

  2. What oil freeze? Saudi Arabia and Russia pump more.
    Iran isn’t taking it easy either. The problem is that even if oil sells at only $10 a barrel, you can’t afford not to sell at such low prices when your government is almost totally dependent on oil revenue. Why not? Because $10 beats zero dollars. Too many suppliers are chasing after too little demand.


  3. Photo’s from MOD Russia do show this morning the russians packing up and leaving Syria. Cargo planes, fighter jets and all hardware brought in is beeing shipped back. Just to be clear Tartous port and Hmeimim airbase were already basically Russian assets before the conflict so that makes no difference. I thought it was a bluff but apparently it isnt, the russians are leaving en masse. And taking in account the costs and just the biblical logistical problems of moving such assets they are not there to come back. If Russians intended to stay and check the results of their words and then eventually resume strikes they would have kept all assets in place. The are two ways to see this move. I think its a mix of both. On one side i think russia is starting to feel the economic impact associated to poor results on the battlefield. Truth is, russian intervention saved only Latakia region (prime goal) and helped contain idlib and break some sieges in Aleppo (most here were shia forces though). Palmyra is making SAA bleed bad like Deir ezzor and in the east its now mostly US led coalition leading the way. Another reason of this pullback could be that diplomacy maybe has some cards to play in the new upcoming talks, but this might work for the moderate rebels but what about Nusra and ISIS? Will this problem one day be delegated to moderate rebels giving them weapons and CaS to kick out jihadists in areas like idilib? Was fun although listening to Putin saying that Russia met all of it goals in Syria. In short he admitted that ISIS was never its main target, since the SAA is still very much stuck in the desert and ISIS is very much alive in Syria. So exactly which goals did you achieve before running for the exit door?

    • I suspect the announcement is, as I mentioned yesterday, a Putin ploy/scheme to pressure Assad into abandoning his maximalist/absolutist ambition of retaining complete control of ALL of Syria. It seems Putin understands how impractical such a goal and has decided to give Assad a dose of reality by exposing to Assad how dependent he/Assad is on Russian military support. This political move by Putin is a signal to Assad that beyond creating a greater Alawistan (ie Latakia +Hama +Homs provinces) he/Putin has no intention to return Syria back to the form Syria was under Assad’s father. Besides with lower oil supply – with it’s subsequent drop in income – Russia needs to cut back on it’s military adventurism because Russian military modernisation is more important to Putin then propping Assad. Furthermore I suspect Putin is anticipating another Clinton Presidency and will want things in Ukraine settled more positively in Russian favour before Mrs Clinton gets elected to the White House and starts US on a a more aggressive anti-Russian policy. One has to admit there’s a ruthless brilliance to Putin’s strategic thought which is head and shoulders above anything Obama does though that said I think it also says something about the strength of the US that the US can survive and thrive geopolitically without having to need a brilliant leader whilst to me it also reveals a fundamental weakness of the Russian state that only a type of men like Putin can lead Russia or else the country/Russia devolves in an anarchic mess (e.g. see Yeltsin years or read history of late Czarist Russia).

      • Since when do you have to be a genius to outwit the incompetent, inflexible, appeasement oriented Obama. Any aggressive dictator can do it. Obama is so predictable. Perfect example: How Putin’s long-sought invasion of the Ukraine occurred very shortly after Babycakies’ Big Backdown on Chemical Weapons. Putin correctly sees Obama as a spineless twit to be taken advantage of at every opportunity.

        • Obama is so predictable.

          All US presidents have been predictable.

          Perfect example: How Putin’s long-sought invasion of the Ukraine occurred very shortly after Babycakies’ Big Backdown on Chemical Weapons.


          1. There was no invasion of Ukraine. The OSCE who are on the ground said no such invasion ever took place
          2. The coup in Kiev was actually concocted by the neocons to punish Putin for spoiling their plans to bomb Syria.

      • K9 – so now you see partitioning in the making? This solution was available a long time ago. But most dismissed it. Someone was saying take Latakia and break Assad’s back. Lol.

        If you consider Putin to be brilliant, then Russia would not have a GDP less than Mexico. But of course, successful economy is a capitalist trick to keep the workers happy while the capitalists get a bit richer exploiting the workers. So who needs an economy. All we need is a dedicated cadre of self-less lefties who would distribute wealth and income and decide what the markets need. Who needs production? Only greedy people want production. The pious left, they need to rule.

      • I suspect the announcement is, as I mentioned yesterday, a Putin ploy/scheme to pressure Assad into abandoning his maximalist/absolutist ambition of retaining complete control of ALL of Syria

        That simply makes no sense when all Putin has to do is pick up the phone and read the riot act to Assad. He knows he has Assad over a barrel and so does Assad.

  4. Good news indeed that the Ruskies are leaving/reducing their forces in Syria. The coalition can now enforce a large NFZ before the Ruskies change their minds. They need to ensure that either the Ruskies remove their anti aircraft missiles or that the NFZ is out of the missile range.

    • The russians will not use S400 to help Assad. They were there to counter any other Turkish intentions on their planes and as a normal precaution as a defense system of the base itself. Its normal to have AA defenses on active airfields. The possibile implementation of a NFZ would be againt the Syrian airforce not russian (not beeing anymore one there). So no need to think about those systems. This if ever a NFZ was to be granted, no signs of that yet.

    • The coalition can now enforce a large NFZ before the Ruskies change their minds.

      There’s not going to be a NFZ. The one in Lybia was based on a Security Council Resolution and a NFZ is useless against cruise missiles. What’s more, Russia will still keep planes at Latakia.

  5. With the Russians reducing their activity, the US will resort back to it’s usual methods of covert terrorism, assasination, bribery, attempts to sow division, resumption of it’s own air strikes against groups like Nusra and Jund Al Aqsa and possibly others, pressurizing it’s clients like Saudi and Turkey to turn rebel factions against each other, increase support to it’s directly controlled proxies like the Southern Front, YPG and SDF to fight against the rebels, occupying parts of Syria itself as a foreign invader by building and expanding bases as well as continuing to pretend to support the rebellion while not-so-secretly-any-more actually working to keep Assad in power.
    In short, everything the US has failed at so spectacularily in the last 5 years because of the determination and awareness of the rebels and their will to fight.

  6. Actually (and I hate to say it, because I dislike the man so much) this move looks smart and constructive. One of the problems of fighting on behalf of a local ally is that they tend to become more useless and less pragmatic. By shoring up the regime’s position, but then withdrawing, the Russians haven’t changed the regime’s long run military prospects. Rather, if the withdrawl is credible (to the regime) they’ve given it the incentive to make peace now, while they’re on a high note.

    Meanwhile Kremlin chief-of-staff Sergey Ivanov said Russia would keep its advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system in place.

    “We are leaving completely reliable cover for the remaining contingent… To effectively ensure security, including from the air, we need the most modern air defence systems,” Russian media quoted him as saying.
    This limits the area for a NFZ but does not exclude it.

  8. Update:
    #International: “YPG militants opened fire on a Turkish army outpost on the border near Qamishli” – Abduhark
    Whilst Russians begin to wind-down military operations within Syria the Turks begin to ramp-up theirs?
    #National: “Reports that 1/2 of the Russian warplanes in Hmeimim airbase, 11 military ships, and 1/3 of the troops based in Hama stadium left yesterday” – Abduhark
    As I’ve mentioned in my post yesterday, Russian withdrawal will not be complete but partial and Russian military presence and intervention within the Syrian conflict will become more covert and selective. So Assad better hope his SAA starts improving drasticly or Hezbollah/Iran start sending even more troops to Syria or else say bye bye to his fantasy of re-acquiring complete control of all of Syria.
    #Observation: “Whatever happens with Russian withdrawal, at least a dozen warplanes, advisers & special forces will stay for long in #Syria to back Regime.” – QalaatAlMudiq
    Exactly. Putin has given his (secret?) promised 6 months of military intervention now Putin will order Assad to complete his part of the bargain. Whether Assad will comply will be entirely dependent on how much the mullahs egg on Assad to keep fighting.

  9. With the Russians leaving what should the rebels do now?

    While it’s silly to say the Russians accomplished all their goals. The Russians did help prevent the collapse of the regime and pretty much eliminated any chance the rebels had to take Hama city.

    I’m optimistic now that the rebels will get a limited supply of Manpads. However, they won’t have a dramatic effect on the battlefield they should deter the regime somewhat from aerial bombing. Here is what I would do if I were the rebels.

    1. Work with Turkey to get Artillery support in an offensive to retake Tel Rifaat. After taking Tel Rifaat work out a deal with the SDF/YPG to allow for transport from/to Aleppo city. Tel Rifaat is a sizable Arab town in Northern Aleppo and should not be controlled by the Kurds.

    2. Continue the strategy in Northern Aleppo and continue encircling Sawran and also go after Dabiq. This should relieve some pressure off Marea. Dabiq has a lot of significance to IS and they would fight hard to protect it.

    3. I would expect the rebels to launch more offensives in Southern Aleppo to help secure routes to Idlib/Aleppo and the main highway. With the withdrawal of Russians and possibly Hezbollah troops it should be a good time to retake Al-Eis and Khan Tuman areas.

    4. If Hezbollah are really going to retreat. Would it be a good time to go after Quneitra again? Southern Front is a joke lately but the rebels could capture some good military equipment there and Israel would be happy to see it happen.

    5. In the east, continue the involvement with the tribes and continue to build on the success of Eastern Qalamon and Tanf border areas.

    • Yes James but most of the things you say would be a breach to the ceasefire (Except vs ISIS). With most of the russians gone its not that now rebels can open fronts at their pleasure. No problem vs ISIS but in south aleppo you would fight the regime like in the south of the country. So i dont really think that would be an option right now. I would personally push east of aleppo from Azaz deep into ISIS territory and try to encircle Sawran like you said. ISIS is very much engaged around Palmyra now. The more territory they free from ISIS the more territory they control for themslves, very protected since it would fall under turkish control. Elsewhere i wouldent open frozen fronts. For now.

      • I like the ending (“For Now”) which makes what comes before sensible. I’d make an exception for “hit and attrit” guerilla style attacks while avoiding major offensives south of Aleppo for now. All enemy convoys must remain especially vulnerable. If an isolated garrison can be picked off quickly, go for it.
        If the talks fail because the Assad regime remains rigid, it’s possible a fed-up may no longer run to Assad’s offense. In that event, rebels have more freedom to operate. Putin doesn’t like to be defied, especially by a contemptible pip squeak mannequin like Assad, the second coming of Mussolini. Assad must be taught his place like a dog being trained. He’s in no position to call the shots anymore.

      • Charles Lister asks a good question:
        “Are we seeing a mini-civilian uprising v. Nusra in Marat al-Numan? Civilians stormed AQ prison, freeing 4 detainees?”
        Contrary to the propaganda of the regime and its allies, II’ve always thought most Syrians, including Sunnis, were far too sophisticated to put up with the kind of Taliban-style rule and social policing favored by extreme Islamists–a system which, if imposed, would keep the Syrians isolated and poor forever. Of course the regime itself helped extremists early on while targeting the moderate rebels as the real danger.
        Lister offers this excellent piece entitled, “Jabhat al-Nusra Oversteps Mark with Idlib Crackdown” in which he notes how the cease fire has exposed a serious JAN vulnerability likely to face some other extreme Islamist factions as well. Peace badly undermines the latter. That’s something for Alawites and Russia to note since it suggests why ousting Assad and his inner circle would benefit them just as much as it would benefit the moderate rebels.

        • Lister is trying to stir trouble between JaN and the FSA. It’s what he does, he probably gets a seperate pay-check for it from all the other stuff he does. Journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem has provided a much better report of the apparent Div 13/ JaN clash. As I said before, after the Russian announcement, expect a lot more hyped up stories to split the rebels fighting Assad to come out.

    • This is a mistake of mine as I forgot the ceasefire is still in place. My point is that the rebels need to get back to their goal from day 1. Slowly diminish the regime capabilities to put the rebels in the best possible position to negotiate a solution. On day 1, the rebels thought this might be possible in a year or two. Reality is that this goal may take many years. It’s not an elegant solution but the rebels best bet is to keep fighting. If the rebels think that they can regain the upper hand then maybe it’s time to get back to fighting.

      The Russian involvement put the rebels on the back foot and made gains extremely difficult. Now that factor is removed the rebels should be able to further erode the regime as they had been doing.

  10. Rebel source says Russian decision2withdrew was result of rebels access2manpads capable of shooting down Russin fighterjets…Mood in #Damascus is gloomy at best after sudden #Russian announcement to withdraw major force from Syria–Alaa Ebrahim

      • I’ve heard these rumors of the Russians deciding this based on Manpads being available. I think this may have had some minor influence on the decision. But even if the rebels get Manpads it won’t have a huge impact on the battlefield. They are not usable against low flying aircraft or helicopters which move very fast. Manpads are better utilized against the aircraft at higher altitude. Even then, I don’t think the hit rate is especially impressive. That being said it will most definitely cause the regime to alter their plans on bombing the rebels and civilian areas. At the minimum, Manpads will be a deterrent and force the regime to plan their bombing runs which in turn will decrease the number of aerial bombardments.

  11. From The Atlantic on the Obama Doctrine:
    Obama does not have a strategy. He has a religion and is driven by inflexible dogmas. Above all, how to crack the mother of all mysteries: Is Obama overseeing the self-containment, or “self-disempowerment,” of the mightiest nation on earth?
    Normally, starring powers are pushed off center-stage by more muscular players, as were the Habsburg Empire, France, and Britain in earlier centuries. Yet Obama’s America has been slinking off without duress. To sharpen the puzzle, Goldberg quotes the King of Jordan: “I think I believe in American power more than Obama does…”
    Realism is more complicated. A realist knows that distant threats, if ignored, can turn into direct ones…A realist also knows that the international system, like nature, abhors a vacuum. So ambitious rivals will interpret inaction as invitation. Even that ur-isolationist Thomas Jefferson grasped the simplest rule of realism: Power calls for counter-power. “None of us wish to see Bonaparte conquer Russia,” he wrote in 1814. “This done, England would be but a breakfast. … It cannot be to our interest that all Europe should be reduced to a single monarchy.”
    The Romans had a word for it: principiis obsta, meaning “resist the beginnings” to avoid an unpleasant end. Syria is a perfect case study. Obama drew his vaunted “red line” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria before Bashar al-Assad massacred civilians with sarin, a nerve gas, in 2013. But instead of making true on the threat of an American military response, Obama pulled back and invited the Russians in…Mr. Putin was delighted to oblige Mr. Obama, and there went 40 years of American primacy in the world’s most critical arena.
    RedT: I’ve often summarized Obama’s Hamlet act as based on the ludicrous principle “A stitch in times never saves nine. The wise policy is to let trouble fester until it becomes serious.”


  12. Mass killer Breivik gives Nazi salute on return to Norway court 3/15/2016

    Combating Terrorism Center at West Point 3/22/2012
    Breivik has also been linked to an organization called Order 777, a self-proclaimed “paraintelligence service” and “Christian brotherhood” structured in “special operation units” to fight the threat of Islamic terrorism.[63] The group has three key members: 1) the former neo-Nazi and convicted terrorist Nick Greger from Germany; 2) the former loyalist paramilitary fighter and convicted terrorist Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair from Northern Ireland; and 3) Paul Ray from England, known as one of the initial founders of the EDL.[64]

    THE ORDER 777 @TheOrder777 4/29/2015
    Brother and member of The Order 777 joins Christian milita Dwekh Nawsha in Iraq. God bless

  13. An MSNBC Interpretation of Putin’s Move Sounds A Bit Like Mine
    “Putin tries declaring victory and going home”
    EXCERPT: The less-obvious problem is the assumption that yesterday’s developments were the result of a successful Putin mission, but that’s not really what happened.

    Let’s not forget that when Russia launched its offensive in Syria, Putin envisioned a “decisive three-month offensive producing major territorial gains for the Syrian regime.” That was the expectation in September, but those “major territorial gains” simply never occurred. Take a look at the maps Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum posted showing Syrian land controlled by the Assad government now as compared to seven months ago. If the two side-by-side images look practically identical, that’s because THEY ARE.
    The New York Times’ report added that Russia is “also facing deepening economic problems caused by the collapse in global oil prices, and the announcement may reflect Mr. Putin’s desire to declare victory and extricate his country from a costly military venture
    To see this as a Russian triumph is to overlook every relevant detail. Putin bought Assad some time – propping up an ally in the midst of a brutal civil war – but military intervention proved to be vastly more difficult than the Russian president expected and produced little of the intended goals. By withdrawing, Putin is cutting his losses, so he can redirect his attention at some of his other pending messes.
    Red T notes:
    Putin and Khamenei have saved Assad temporarily from cliff’s edge for the third time. But does Putin really want to pull a fourth., fifth or sixth rescue job? Will most Russians support that? It’s also possible that Putin is leaving for precisely the same reasons MSNBC cites and more (see my earlier analysis for that)? Having withdrawn substantially, how many times can Putin return, sucking up blood and money, before Russians see another Afghanistan in the works?

    If the real reasons are a bit different that the “success” Putin mentions, how would you expect Putin to spin the withdrawal if you were in his shoes? As a “victory.” As a sign of his “genius’ at outwitting Obama (something my cat could easily do). You don’t really espect Putin to admit to Russians and the world, that “We’re getting out of her while its still possible to do in order to avoid catastrophe down the road.” In that regard, it’s a wise move for Putin for once. The guy has a penchant for stepping in do do.

    • Putin read the handwriting on the wall — before it were too late.

      Putin thought Sanders would win the presidency and get 4 more years of appeasement. But both Hillary and Trump want NFZs. Trump has said he will send back the refugees to Syria and make them safe. And trump is a gung-ho capitalist and militarist. He will never bow to Putin. If a couple of generals come to trump and say we should send manpads, he will certainly agree.

      But it is clear by now that Sanders has failed. And none of the Republicans will turn the other cheek. Better quit while ahead. Putin thought he would have taken over Idlib/Aleppo by now. Did not work. Now he is back to the partition idea, after killing countless innocent children.

  14. Putin’s shock decision could be the translation of a deal with the US or frustration with Assad…or both
    – – Russia is not committed to al-Assad, personally. The goal of Russian intervention has been a
    political settlement that serves Moscow’s interests, while betting on many horses of which Assad is
    only one.
    — The lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq are well established in the russian minds.
    — The progress achieved by Syrian regime forces on the ground with Russian air cover have hit a peak
    and pro-Damascus forces can make no further gains.
    — The opposition may receive a boost, exactly because half of warfare is about symbols and morale.
    The geographical division that the Russian and US leaders are probably envisaging remains hard to fathom. Whether it takes the form of federalism or partition, this seems to be the way forward for the US-Russian agenda.

  15. This is a cool map showing the situation in SE Damascus and Homs.

    A couple of notes.

    1. Based on the map the rebels control the Tanf border crossing and all areas around it. I’d heard conflicting reports on this. But this is fairly important and this is an access point to Iraq and a big loss for IS.

    2. IS are trapped in Bir Qassab area which is towards the Lajat area. I’m not sure if this was the case before but the rebels may decide to force IS out of this area. This would allow them full maneuverability in much of Eastern Qalamon and eastern rural Damascus. The Eastern Qalamon successes that the FSA groups have had recently have been very underreported.

  16. Update:
    #Hama: “Confirmed: Russian forces have moved from their base near Muardes town to Hama military airport” – Abduhark
    First stage of transit before leaving Syria?

  17. We may be going a full day in Syria today with no airstrikes on rebels. No reports of airstrikes on rebels or any rebel held area. Big things happening in Syria.

  18. Issam Al Reis,Syria ‏– We want no occupying forces on our land that prop up a brutal dictatorship. All foreign Shia militia should also withdraw from Syria.

    • What`s about Iran?
      Iran Continues with Propaganda:
      On military involvement in Iraq and Syria:
      defended the presence of Iranian military forces in Iraq and Syria during his remarks. He called terrorist attacks against Shia shrines in Iraq and Syria a “red line” and stated, “The issue is not whether [the shrines] are based in Iraq, Syria, or other countries. We will not tolerate attempts by terrorists to assault the holy shrines of the household [of the Prophet Muhammad] and will stand against them.” Iranian media frequently refers to Iranian casualties in both Iraq and Syria as “defenders of the shrine.” (Hamshahri) (Press TV) (E)

      • 1..Farsnews, the outlet of iranian IRGC on Wednesday 16 Mar 2016 / Tehran – 00:30 / GMT – 21:00
        looks like if the the russian partly withdrawl did not happen. Farsnews talks about russian airraids at Palmyra. Inside iranian news outlet the retreat does not exist.
        Looks like if iranians have some headaches making them puzzled and speechless.

        • Worsening relations between Moscow and Teheran
          “”Despite their numerous anti-Western interests,
          Russia and Iran are not allies.
          Neither is willing to give up much of anything for the sake of good relations with the other. Washington, then, cannot expect that Tehran will consider binding any agreement reached with Moscow regarding the settlement of the conflict in Syria. To reach such a settlement, Washington must also negotiate with Tehran (as well as Riyadh).””

          Teheran wants more cuddling with Obama about syria and saudi arabia — which characterizes the new role of US foreign policy. Looks like if the iranian jihadis are in trouble.

  19. What? Syrians are protesting JaN and JaA? How is that possible? According to the leftist narrative, all rebels are terrorists and Islamists, and Russia was doing everyone a big favor bombing hospitals and marketplaces to get rid of those pesky Islamists. How is it possible that Syrians may not like AlQaeda and ISIS, and not deserve Russian cluster bombs and Assad’s barrel bombs? Didn’t the US create ISIS and AlQaeda? Does the US not control JaN and the rebels? So this news cannot be true, and is propaganda to depict the rebels as liberation fighters, so that the US can ‘intervene’ and occupy Syria, steal all their massive oil and gas fields, and ship top grade silicon sand to Silicon Valley. And I am an anti-imperialist complex thinker with a lot of nuance and a degree in gender studies.

    • Well, looks like if your comment isn`t up to date – no russian and no iranian trolls – and no anti – imperialist lefties. Maybe they are all filled up with vodka. Btw – have you seen any iranian response about the russian partly retreat? Could not find much about it ……….

      • I don’t follow the news from Iran anymore. Bunch of incompetents there, in particular the opposition. Never seen such herd of cats that is so clueless. Never seen such a bunch of politically stupid people in one place. They deserve every bit they are getting. They still worship Mossadegh and believe Islam must be part of state, even when this regime goes. The opposition does not even have a bill of rights to propose. Useless self-important people.

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