التقرير الدوري لمراكز الابحاث الاميركية

 

 

 

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التقرير الدوري لمراكز الابحاث الأميركية: د. منذر سليمان

 

نشرة دورية تصدر عن وحدة

"رصد النخب الفكرية"

22/ أيلول - سبتمبر/‏ 2018     09/22/2018

 

Introduction 

 

Despite events in places like Syria, the focus on Washington was on the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice.  Despite reports, however, it looks like Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed by the US Senate next week.

This Weeks’s analysis looks at events in Syria, specifically the shoot down of the Russian aircraft and the insertion of US Marines into NE Syria for exercises

.

المقدمة      

          السياسيون في واشنطن منهمكون في معركة حامية الوطيس لتقرير مستقبل مرشح الرئيس للمحكمة العليا، بريت كافينو، أكثر مما يشدهم اقتراب اللعب على حافة الصدام المباشر بين القوات الأميركية والروسية في سوريا.

          سيسلط قسم التحليل الضوء على حيثيات الساحة السورية الخاصة بسقوط طائرة استطلاع روسية وعلى متنها 15 عسكرياً، في منطقة شن فيها سلاح الجو "الإسرائيلي" غارات صاروخية على الشمال السوري؛ وكذلك تعزيز القوات الأميركية ورفدها بمشاة البحرية، المارينز، في أقصى شمال شرق سوريا.

 

 

ملخص دراسات واصدارات مراكز الابحاث

سوريا:

          رجح معهد أبحاث السياسة الخارجية نشوب قتال جديد في إدلب "المعقل الرئيس الأخير لقوى المعارضة السورية .. بما أن كافة اللاعبين الأساسيين على الساحة يعدون العدة لرسم معالم الحملة بما يخدم مصالحهم الخاصة." واضاف أنه منذ إبرام إتفاق إنشاء "مناطق خفض التصعيد .. استغلت الحكومة السورية وداعميها ثغرات الإتفاق بما يسمح لها شن حرب ضد المجموعات الإرهابية." ومضى بالقول أن شروط الاستسلام التي فرضتها الحكومة السورية على تلك المجموعات في مناطق أخرى من البلاد "اقتضت ترحيل ما تبقى من القوات والعوائل المدنيين إلى محافظة إدلب."

https://www.fpri.org/article/2018/09/strategic-implications-of-the-syrian-offensive-in-idlib/

 

اليمن:

          حذر معهد واشنطن صناع القرار السياسي من عدم تجاهل "الأزمة الرهيبة في اليمن" منذ أن وضعت الولايات المتحدة نصب أعينها هدف "الحيلولة دون بروز فرع لحزب الله في جنوب شبه الجزيرة العربية .. والذي شكل تهديداً صاروخياً جديداً لكل من السعودية واسرائيل." للتأكيد على استنتاجاته، أشار المعهد إلى دراسة حديثة صدرت عن "مركز مكافحة الإرهاب" في كلية ويست بوينت البحرية والتي رسمت معالم "حركة (يمنية) أشد طموحاً وعدائية للمصالح الأميركية أوسع مما يدركه" صناع القرار.

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/ending-yemens-war-without-perpetuating-a-southern-hezbollah

العراق:

          لفت معهد واشنطن الأنظار إلى ما يعده الكونغرس الأميركي بتجديد العمل بقانون عقوبات ضد وكلاء إرهابيين لإيران، والذي جاء رداً على "ما تضمنته تقارير سرية مؤخراً بأن ايران وفرت صواريخ باليستية لتنظيمي عصائب الحق و حركات حزب الله النجباء؛" وبعد ما تعرض له مجمع السفارة الأميركية في بغداد من "قصف صاروخي" يومي 7 و 8 أيلول الجاري. واستشهد المعهد ببيان صادر عن البيت الأبيض، 8 أيلول، يحمل فيه "إيران مسؤولية شن هجمات تسفر عن إلحاق الأذى بالطواقم الديبلوماسية أو تسبب أضراراً للمنشآت الأميركية الرسمية."

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-smart-way-to-sanction-iranian-backed-militias-in-iraq

أفغانستان:

          شن مركز الدراسات الاستراتيجية والدولية حملة انتقادات لاذعة ضد الحكومة الأميركية "لفشلها" في الحديث بشفافية عن الوضع العسكري في أفغانستان "مما يعيد إلى الأذهان مخاطر إرساء الحكومة لانطباعات مضلِّلة حول نجاحات تحققها في الحرب أو الصراع .. وغزو العراق عام 2003 بناء على معلومات غير دقيقة." وحث المعهد صناع القرار على استعادة محتويات مؤلف كلاوسفيتز في الحرب لا سيما مقولته "إن ضباب الحرب لا مفر منه جزئياً، ولكنه أيضاً يمكن أن يصبح بسهولة جرحاً ذاتياً." وذكر المعهد القادة السياسيين من أن ما شهدناه سابقاً "إنشاء عالم خيالي هو أسوأ طريقة ممكنة لبناء استراتيجية .. ففي حمى المعركة يميل العقل إلى فقدان اتزانه."

https://www.csis.org/analysis/telling-truth-about-war-afghanistan

روسيا:

          جدد معهد كارنيغي  منسوب العداء الأميركي لروسيا لجملة أسباب منها "انتعاش دور الكرملين كلاعب حاسم في الشرق الأوسط" وتأثيره الإيجابي على شعبية الرئيس بوتين "كما أن ضم روسيا لشبه جزيرة القرم شكل هبة لمدى شعبيته، 61-65% قبل الإلحاق ووصل إلى ما ينوف عن 80% بعده." وأعرب عن قناعته بأن تلك الشعبية المرتفعة للرئيس بوتين شهدت انخفاضاً في الأشهر القليلة الماضية نتيجة الإحباط العام حول السياسات الداخلية واقتراح الحكومة بخفض مستويات الدعم عن البرامج الاجتماعية .." واستطرد بالقول أن انخفاض شعبية الرئيس بوتين "قد يرافقها تداعيات حقيقية في ولايته الرئاسية الجديدة واحتمال اندلاع صراع على خليفته" فيما بعد.

https://carnegie.ru/2018/08/15/why-putin-s-approval-ratings-are-declining-sharply-pub-77049

 

الحرب على الإرهاب:

          أشارت مؤسسة هاريتاج إلى بعض الجديد المتضمن في ميزانية وزارة الدفاع التي أقرت للعام المقبل، لا سيما بند الطائرات الهجومية الخفيفة، الذي جسده الرئيس ترامب بالايعاز لوزير الدفاع "إعادة تقييم آلية تطبيق القوات العسكرية الأميركية لمهام مكافحة الإرهاب بمستويات كلفة دائمة من الجهوزية العسكرية وتسخير الموارد." وأوضحت أن ما سينجم عنه "لجوء سلاح الجو لشراء معدات للطائرات من الأسواق التجارية بكلفة أقل .. عوضاً عما هو معمول به حالياً من اشتراك طائرات مقاتلة متطورة في مهام دعم عمليات القوات الأميركية وشركائها."

https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/no-silver-bullet-assessing-light-attack-aircraft

   

 

التحليل

سقوط الطائرة الروسية: اختبار لفعالية اجراءات موسكو للجم العدوان الإسرائيلي

 

أعلنت موسكو، 22 أيلول/سبتمبر، أنها قررت إغلاق "الاجواء البحرية والاقتصادية" السورية إلى ما بعد انتهاء مناوراتها البحرية الجارية، بعد مشاورات مكثفة بين القيادات الروسية المختلفة عقب سقوط طائرة الاستطلاع الروسية فوق المياه السورية 17 الشهر الجاري.        

          يشار إلى أن مدى "المياه الإقليمية" وفق القانون الدولي يبلغ 22 كلم، أما "المياه الاقتصادية" فهي أبعد من ذلك بكثير، مما يرسي "قواعد اشتباك" جديدة أمام تصاعد التهديدات الغربية "والإسرائيلية" والرامية لإدامة استنزاف سوريا بعد هزائم متتالية تكبدتها المجموعات المسلحة.

 

(التشديد مضاف).مساء الاثنين على أهداف في مدينة اللاذقية السورية F-16 وقع عندما حاولت الدفاعات السورية صد غارة شنتها 4 طائرات إسرائيلية وأضاف أن الحادث ".   

الموقف الأميركي، محور اهتمامنا، أتى سريعاً كاشفاً عمق مستويات التنسيق مع "اسرائيل." إذ نقلت شبكت (سي أن أن) فور الحادث عن مصدر رفيع لها في الإدارة الأميركية قوله إنه "تم إسقاط الطائرة الروسية بالخطأ بصواريخ الدفاع الجوي السوري التي باعتها روسيا لسوريا منذ سنوات

     وزير الخارجية مايك بومبيو قال في بيان إن "حادث أمس المؤسف تذكرنا بضرورة إيجاد حلول دائمة وسلمية وسياسية للصراعات الكثيرة المتداخلة في المنطقة، ولخطر الأخطاء المأساوية في التقدير في الساحة السورية المزدحمة بالعمليات." كما دعا لإنهاء عمليات نقل إيران لأسلحة عبر سوريا، واصفًا إياها بأنها مستفزة وتشكل خطرًا على المنطقة.

     الحوض الشرقي للبحر الأبيض المتوسط يشهد حضوراً عسكرياً مكثفاً من الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا وفرنسا، بالاضافة لروسيا، بشكل غير مسبوق.

أرسلتها للمرابطة بالقرب من الشواطيء السورية وكانت نشطة في إطلاق صواريخ مجنحة باتجاه مدينة اللاذقية. وقالت موسكو مباشرة إن فرنسا قد يكون لها صلة بحادث طائرة الاستطلاع الروسية "إيل-20،" استناداً إلى بيانات رصد راداراتها قيام "أوفيرني" بإطلاق صواريخ في سير طيران طائرتها "وحضورها في المكان والزمان غير المناسبين."" (Auvergne)      لدى فرنسا، مثلاً، فرقاطة "اوفيرني

     السؤال المحوري الذي يولده سقوط "ايل-20" على بعد 27 كلم غرب مدينة بانياس بريف اللاذقية وعلى متنها 15 عسكرياً روسياً، إن كان القرار جاء بطلب من "طرف ثالث،" أسوة بما حصل مع إسقاط مقاتلة سوخوي-24، من قبل تركيا في عام 2015 بقرار من حلف الناتو بقيادة الولايات المتحدة.

     في كلتا الحالتين، غاب الدور الأميركي عن صدارة الحضور المباشر، ومن المستبعد (وفق رؤى صالونات واشنطن) الاعتقاد أن وجهة الإتهام "إسرائيل" قررت "انتهاك الوضع القائم طوعا، خاصة وأن روسيا منعت التشكيلات الإيرانية من المرابطة في مرتفعات الجولان، وأخذت بالاعتبار مصالح إسرائيل في سوريا بعد الحرب." كما وأن "اسرائيل" وافقت على "مبادرة الرئيس الروسي بإرساء قواعد اشتباك محددة" للحيلولة دون وقوع صدام مباشر مع القوات الروسية هناك.

     البيانات الروسية الأولى حول سقوط طائرة الاستطلاع أشارت إلى حادث ".. الطائرة التي اختفت عن شبكة الرادارات تزامن مع شن طائرات حربية إسرائيلية هجوماً على مواقع سورية في اللاذقية؛ وقيامها بمناورات جوية استفزازية عرضت الطائرة الروسية للخطر." وأن المقاتلات "الإسرائيلية تسترت بالطائرة الروسية،" ما جعل الأخيرة عرضةً لنيران االجيش السوري.

     وأضاف المتحدث باسم وزارة الدفاع الروسية، إيغور كوناشينكوف، إن الطائرة "إيل-20" تتميز بسطح عاكس فعال أكثر من "إف-16" (الأمريكية)، الأمر الذي جعلها هدفًا للدفاعات الجوية.

     الخبير العسكري والأستاذ في قسم العلوم السياسية والاجتماعية بجامعة بليخانوف للاقتصاد في موسكو، ألكسندر بيريندجييف، رجح أن ضربات العدوان الغربي على سوريا هذه المرّة لن تُسدّدها المدمّرة الاميركية والطائرات الإستراتيجيّة وحسب، بل سيكون هناك "مدعوّون جدد"، لا سيما وان طواقم عسكرية أميركية ماضية في إعداد مطار عسكري في مدينة الشدادي شمال شرق سورية.

     ما يعزز توجيه الإتهام بالمسؤولية لواشنطن، من المستويين العسكري والسياسي، التصريح الأخير لوزير الخارجية الروسي سيرغي لافروف، 21 الشهر الجاري، بقوله "إن أكبر تهديد لسيادة سوريا ووحدتها يأتي من شرق الفرات،" أي المناطق الخاضعة لسيطرة (قوات سوريا الديموقراطية) المدعومة من قبل "التحالف الدولي الذي تقوده واشنطن."

     تكثيف واشنطن لحضورها العسكري في سوريا أوضحته شبكة "رووداو" الكردية يوم 20 الشهر الجاري، لا سيما في تمركز عدد من الشاحنات المحملة بالأسلحة والعتاد في محيط  مدينة الحسكة ودخول "500 شاحنة أمريكية محملة بالأسلحة والمعدات العسكرية لمناطق كوردستان سوريا وشمال سوريا منذ مطلع شهر أيلول/سبتمبر الجاري؛" أرسل قسم منها إلى منطقة "منبج" بريف حلب.

     وأضاف المصدر الكردي أن لأميركا "..أكثر من 18 قاعدة عسكرية في سوريا وكردستان السورية" بالإضافة لوحدات من قواتها الخاصة وفدت تباعاً.

      في ظل هذه التطورات والصدام يلوح في الأفق، أعلن سلاح البحرية الأميركية، 20 أيلول الجاري، وصول "مجموعة ضاربة من سفن الأسطول الأمريكي تتقدمها حاملة الطائرات "هاري ترومان"، دخلت المتوسط وشرعت في تنفيذ عمليات تدريبية هناك." يذكر أن حاملة "هاري ترومان" شاركت بقصف دمشق ومواقع سورية بصواريخ "توماهوك" في شهر نيسان/ابريل الماضي. وتتضمن المجموعة، حسب قائدة الأسطول السادس الأميركي ليزا فرانشيتي، طراد "نورماندي" الصاروخي وعدد من المدمرات بالإضافة إلى "هاري ترومان" التي تحمل على متنها 9 مجموعات من الطائرات المقاتلة.

     موسكو أعدّت رزمة "مفاجآت" للردّ على الضربات الأميركية-الأطلسيّة المُزمعة، موضحا انّ رد موسكو جاء بالكشف عن قدرات الطرّاد الصاروخي الروسي "مارشال اوستينوف،" المرابط بالقرب من السواحل السورية، والذي باستطاعته تنفيذ منطقة حظر جوّي في منطقة ​طرطوس​ وقاعدة حميميم بوسائل الدّفاع الجوي "أس300 إف "فورت،" والتصدي لأي صواريخ يحتمل إطلاقها عبر المجال الجوي اللبناني.

     في تطور ملفت وبالغ الأهمية خلال زحمة الاهتمام بموعد بدء معركة تحرير إدلب من المجموعات المسلحة، أعلنت روسيا وأميركا عن اتفاقهما لتفكيك "مخيم الركبان" وسحب القوات الأميركية من التنف على الحد\ود الجنوبية لسوريا وترحيل المسلحين إلى إدلب. واكبه اتفاق القمة بين الرئيس الروسي بوتين ونظيره التركي اردوغان في (سوتشي) الروسية لتجنيب إدلب معركة قاسية بالقضاء على المجموعات الإرهابية هناك "تدريجيا" بدءأ بانشاء "منطقة منزوعة السلاح في محافظة ادلب .. وخروج جميع الفصائل الجهادية في 10 تشرين الأول/اكتوبر المقبل؛ ونزع الأسلحة الثقيلة من دبابات وصواريخ ومدافع هاون" التي بحوزة تلك المجموعات؛ بالاضافة الى بنود أخرى تتعلق بطبيعة الترتيبات والتنسيق الميداني مع تركيا.

     الإعلان عن "إخلاء" قاعدة التنف من الوجود الأميركي لم ينل اهتماماً أميركياً كافياً، كونه جاء ترجمة لقمة هلسينكي بين رؤساء البلدين، من ناحية، وكونه يجسد المأثور الشعبي "الطبل بإدلب والعرس بالتنف."

     أمام هذه الخلفية من "تراجع المخطط الأميركي" بتفكيك سوريا، وحشد قوى عسكرية غير مسبوقة بين الدولتين العظميين، ومثلث العدوان الثلاثي القديم، معطوفة على "تساهل" روسيا النسبي في التصدي لاختراق الأجواء السورية المتواصلة، قفز المشهد السياسي العام إلى مناخ جديد "لإرجاء" الصدام العسكري والسماح باستعادة الدولة السورية سيادتها "تدريجيا" على محافظة إدلب. أما مصير المجموعات المسلحة فقد تم "إعادته" للدول الراعية، عبر تركيا، التي ستكون مسؤولة دولياً عن "الفصل بين القوى المختلفة" وتركها لمصيرها المحتوم إن لم تقبل عروض المصالحة من الدولة السورية.

         الثابت في السياسة الدولية أن روسيا وأميركا أحجمتا عن الصدام المباشر، على الرغم من لعب الأخيرة على حافة الهاوية، خاصة بعد ورود أنباء شبه موثقة بأن الضربة الصاروخية الأخيرة لمدينة اللاذقية ومحيطها جاء بعد توفر "معلومات استخباراتية محكمة" تفيد بأن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد يتواجد في تلك المنطقة؛ ليتم استهدافه شخصياً وقلب المعادلة الميدانية.

          أما وقد حسمت روسيا مرحلة ما بعد إسقاط طائرتها الاستطلاعية فقد أعيد الاعتبار للحل السياسي، الذي تفضله واشنطن بصيغة "مؤتمر جنيف" بصرف نظرها عن التحولات السياسية والميدانية الممثلة بهزيمة القوى التكفيرية؛ ودخول الأمم المتحدة مجددا على ذات اللحن السياسي.

     جدير بالذكر أن روسيا لم تقتنع بالتبريرات التي قدمتها تل أبيب حول ملابسات سقوط الطائرة ولا تزال تخضع الحادث للمزيد من التحقيقات، وكل المؤشرات تدل على أن القيادة الروسية عازمة على اتخاذ اجراءات جديدة تتركز حول حماية قواتها العاملة في سوريا، وليس من المستبعد تزويد سوريا بمعدات تقنية وعسكرية جديدة متطورة تضمن التصدي والردع للإعتداءات الإسرائيلية المتكررة؛ كما حسم الأمين العام لحزب الله السيد نصرالله في خطابه الأخير مسألة امتلاك المقاومة اللبنانية للسلاح الضروري دون الحاجة لأي "شحنات " جديدة عبر سوريا، وهي الذريعة الجاهزة اسرائيليا ليتبرير اعتداءاتها.

     سيتم اختبار مدى الإجراءات الروسية الجديدة في سوريا لدى اي محاولة اعتداء  اسرائيلية مرتقبة على السيادة السورية، ولقد فرضت حادثة سقوط الطائرة الروسية والمسؤولية الاسرائيلية فيها اعادة النظر بالمقاربة الروسية المتساهلة لتاريخه في التعامل مع الكيان الإسرائيلي .

 

 

 

Situation Continues to Heat up

in and Around Syria

It may seem hard to believe, but the situation in Syria between Syria, Russia, Israel, and the US continues to heat up.  Two incidents that created more tension was a shooting down of a Russian military aircraft after it was used by Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft as a blind to close in on Syrian airspace.  The second incident was the deployment of an American Marine Company in northeast Syria and the deployment of Carrier Truman and its battle group to the Mediterranean

What happened and how will these incidents impact the ongoing fighting in Syria?

Speaking alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump said the Monday night downing of a Russian maritime surveillance plane by accidental Syrian friendly fire was “a very sad thing,” Trump's remarks seemed to signal regret over Monday night's dramatic escalation over Syria after a massive Israeli attack.

On Tuesday, Russia had pointed the finger at Israel for purposefully provoking the mishap, something Israel has since denied in a military statement that ultimately put blame on president Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah.

While addressing the Syrian situation with his Polish counterpart, President Trump indicated that a decision on the future of US policy in Syria is coming soon.  Trump also said that the US fight against ISIS in Syria could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said of the Pentagon mission against ISIS.

He then followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

Although some in Washington have indicated that Trump has been persuaded to remain in Syria indefinitely, Trump’s comments seemed to indicate otherwise.

Of course, it is possible that Monday's attack involving Israeli missiles and the downing of a Russian plane might have reinforced Trump’s original decision to withdraw from the Syrian quagmire.  Both Russia and the US are afraid that the current situation could lead to an accidental engagement between Russian and American aircraft.

Monday's events also came just after Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart President Erdogan announced that a demilitarized zone in Idlib will be formed by October 15. As part of the deal Russia and Syria have reportedly called off the major offensive on Idlib, and Turkey has vowed to facilitate the withdrawal of the al-Qaeda groups in control of Idlib to Jisr al-Shughour near the Turkish border.

The Russia-Turkey deal over Idlib has at least temporarily reduced the threat that the US would intervene under the pretext of Syria (or someone else) launch a chemical weapons attack.

The downing of the Russian aircraft was a result of a massive Israeli missile attack earlier this week.  The IDF did admit to launching the massive Monday evening attack, which involved strikes on locations across four Syrian provinces, but insisted that its military action was defensive in nature.

The IDF said it targeted sites “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”  The IDF said "these weapons were meant to attack Israel and posed an intolerable threat against it.”

One of the sites attacked early in the hour-plus long assault was a scientific research center, which Israel has alleged is used to develop chemical weapons.

What made this incident much more serious was the fact that a Russian Il-20 surveillance aircraft was shot down with the loss of 15 Russian lives.

While Russia had previously blamed Israel for the downing of the plane, it later said that Israel intended to use the Russian plane as "cover" during the attack.

A spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense said Russia believes the attack was a set-up, with Israeli aircraft hoping to use the Russian plane as cover from Syrian air defenses. Since the Russian aircraft had much larger radar profile than the Israeli aircraft, the Syrian defense systems would naturally latch on to the Il-20, according to the prior Russian Ministry of Defense statement.

"The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. Consequently, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile," the statement said.

Russia further confirmed that Israel notified Russia of the impending massive attack on Syrian targets through the military-to-military hotline set up to prevent such "accidents" but only gave a one-minute notice, which didn't allow Russian aircraft to evacuate the area.

The use of larger aircraft to hide behind while penetrating restricted airspace is a common tactic used by Russian and NATO aircraft.  Modern fighter aircraft are much smaller than most commercial aircraft, especially modern cargo or passenger aircraft.  Therefore, a military aircraft can easily merge its radar signature into that of the larger aircraft and enter “hostile” airspace without being noticed – especially since commercial radar doesn’t have the resolution of modern military radar.

In this case, the Syrian military radar was not of a modern design.  The Syrian air defense system (the S200 or the NATO designation, SA-5 Gammon) that allegedly shot down the Russian aircraft is an old system designed in the 1950s and fielded in the 1960s to defeat large bomber attacks into the USSR.  According to reports, it still uses vacuum tubes instead of solid-state electronics.

Not only is the system obsolete (the Soviet Union started deactivating the missile batteries in the 1980s and 1990s), it appears as if the Syrians were unable to maintain them.  During the initial years of the Syrian Civil War, parts of the S-200 systems were occasionally spotted when Syrian Air Defense sites were overrun by rebel forces. Most notably radars, missiles and other equipment belonging to S-200 system were pictured while in disrepair when rebels overtook the air defense site in Eastern Ghouta in October 2012.

Although the Russians have repaired the Syrian air defense sites since then, they have remained insufficient response when employed against the Israeli Air Force (IAF) attacks.

On 17 March 17, 2017, the Israeli Air Force attacked a number of Syrian armed forces targets near Palmyria in Syria.  The Israeli Air Force sent four aircraft through Lebanon’s airspace and launched missiles toward Syrian territory. The Syrian Air Defense force was able to track two aircraft and fired missiles while they were still over Lebanon.  One of the Syrian missiles lost its target was headed towards a populated area when Israeli missile defense fired at least one Arrow missile which intercepted the incoming missile.  Two other S-200 missiles landed in other parts of Israel after losing their target.

The fact that Israeli fighter aircraft regularly “spoof” Syrian S200 missile systems, while a Russian surveillance aircraft was unable to defend itself against one of Russia’s own old missile systems, probably says something about Syria’s and Russia’s military level of coordination when it comes to Israeli threat.

Obviously, the S200 and its Syrian operators were unable to keep the S200 missile from “locking on” and hitting a Russian aircraft.  That indicates a lack of certain necessary procedures of Syrian operators since in nearly any air defense scenario, both enemy and friendly aircraft will be in the air at the same time, but we cannot rule out the effect of electronic countermeasures employed by the Israelis.

The incident also indicates that Russian pilots are unable to break the radar lock from its own air defense systems.  The S200 uses the 5N62 (NATO designation, Square Pair) H band continuous wave radar, with terminal semi-active radar homing, which Russian pilots should know how to “spoof” since they are flying in an air defense system not under their own control.

The fact that the Russian pilot apparently was unaware that his aircraft was being “painted” by the S200 fire control radar and didn’t know how to successfully avoid the missile, indicates that the Russian air forces currently stationed in Syria aren’t as well prepared and well trained as they should be.

The Marines Land in Syria

The Israeli missile attack on Syria wasn’t the only military action in Syria.

In what seems to be a military response to the large Russian naval force operating in the Eastern Mediterranean, the US sent about 100 US Marines into Syria to carry out exercises with America’s Syrian rebel allies.  It also came after Russia warned that its force could attack the US occupied garrison in At Tanf.

The US said, “The exercise was conducted to reinforce our capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces within our area of operations.”

The forces reinforced a 55 km radius “deconfliction zone around its garrison in At Tanf, which has been declared “off limits” to others.

To show the Syrians, Iranians, and Russians that it is serious, the US shifted the USS Essex (LHD 2) from the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea.  It is the flagship of the Marine Expeditionary Group (MEU) and carries the most modern US fighter the F-35.

The MEU and Amphibious Ready Group consist of three amphibious warfare ships and a heavily reinforced and mobile Marine Battalion.  They could quickly move into American controlled territory in Syria if necessary.

If that isn’t enough, the Navy announced that the aircraft carrier USS Truman will be heading towards the Mediterranean with the other ships of its carrier strike group.  The Navy has been quite secretive about the Truman’s movements, but it could be on station in the Eastern Mediterranean within days.  The carrier also has the new F-35 stealth fighter.

It is unknown if the USS Truman will head to the Arabian Sea or remain in the Mediterranean.  During its last deployment earlier this year, they stayed out of the Arabian Sea area.

If the USS Truman remains on station off Syria, we can expect to see some of the same type of activity that occurred between NATO and Soviet ships during the Cold War.  While the Russian Anti-Submarine units try to detect US submarines, the Russian combatants will follow the US ships, especially the USS Truman.  US and Soviet ships did this for decades without any serious incidents.

Of course, there is the question of what will happen if the US decides to carry out operations in Syria?  If a strike is planned, the US ships involved will likely move away from the Syrian coast and into open seas.  This will leave the Russians on the horns of a dilemma.  Should they move with the US fleet or stay near the Syrian coast to provide air defense?

And, could the Russian ships provide better air defense than they did against Israeli aircraft this week?

The fact is that US naval assets in the region are more capable than the Russian ships in terms of strike capability, air defense, and anti-sub warfare.  The two dozen Russian ships wouldn’t be able to cover all possible strike scenarios, especially since all of the US ships can launch cruise missiles.

If the Russian ships move west with the US fleet, this would leave US ships in the Red Sea free to carry out the strike, by flying over Jordan and Israel.  The Essex task force in the Red Sea could also use cruise missiles.

If the Russian ships are unable to track the US submarines, the submarines could launch cruise missiles.

It’s quite likely that the USS Truman carrier air group would not be used in any attack.  Rather, they would be used as a decoy to move Russian ships out of position off the Syrian coast.

These two incidents indicate that all sides are serious about maintaining their positions and policies, while limiting the danger of escalation.

Meanwhile, although the Russians are understandably upset with Israel, they have learned some lessons about flying inside an active air defense zone – even if it is under the control of an ally.

Russia will continue to remain in Syria.  However, don’t be surprised if they integrate Syria’s entire air defense under Russian control.

In the meantime, expect the US to keep a low-profile Special Forces footprint in Syria to “deter” president Assad, Russia, Iran, and Turkey.  That small SF presence will also be able to be reinforced if necessary with a Marine amphibious force that is always in the Middle East.  That will keep Assad and his allies from trying to force the US out of the region.

In the meantime, Syria is very reminiscent of the Balkans before World War One.  There is no reason for events there to cause a major war; however, there is every reason to think that the major powers in the region can blunder into one.

 

 

SUMMARY, ANALYSIS, PUBLICATIONS, AND ARTICLES

 

Think Tanks Activity Summary

 

For further details, scroll down to the PUBLICATIONS section

 

The CSIS looks at the war in Afghanistan and says the US is lying to itself.  They note, “There have, however, been far too many lies of omission rather than lies of commission. More and more forms of reporting and metrics have been eliminated, embarrassing information has been classified, methods of reporting have been changed in ways that are not properly explained, and the State Department and USAID have largely ceased to report any overviews of the civil progress in the war while OSD Public Affairs has cut much of its reporting on the Afghan War out of its web page – including removing the listing of its 1225 semi-annual report to Congress from the list of DoD publications.  By and large, the U.S. government can argue that most of its reporting is at least a possible interpretation of the data and events. However, the problems in official reporting are still serious and growing.”

 

The Heritage Foundation looks at the development of light attack aircraft (LAA) that will allow the Air force to expand, but without spending as much money.  They note, “If the Air Force had a much more robust budget, and a surplus of fighter pilots, adding this aircraft and its low-intensity conflict faculties to the portfolio might be very prudent. However, when one considers the shift in emphasis toward high-intensity combat—spelled out in the National Defense Strategy and reflected in the 2019 NDAA—against a budget environment and fighter-pilot shortfall that will likely be growing tighter over the coming years, it makes little sense to make the light attack aircraft a program of record for the U.S. Air Force. The Service would be much better served by ensuring the LAA has the faculties to interact with the network of multi-domain command-and-control sensors. From there, it should entice, financially incentivize, and even purchase this system for partner nations who may punch at a lower weight class, but who want to fight with us.”

 

The Carnegie Endowment says the Russian President Putin’s popularity is in decline.  They warn, “if Putin’s low approval ratings persist, the Kremlin will likely try to create some sort of spectacle to distract attention from Russia’s many social problems. It may want to double down on dramatic foreign policy gestures, but, as mentioned above, these have lost their potency. A July Levada Center poll showed a significant boost in positive attitudes toward the West after the World Cup—positive sentiments toward the United States, for example, jumped to 42 percent, up from 20 percent in May. (Of course, the recent additional U.S. sanctions against Russia could lower this rating while helping Putin’s.) Another way of distracting public attention could be to continue the tsunami of recent arrests of alleged spies and traitors to Russia, from Karina Tsurkan, an executive at Russia’s Inter RAO energy company who is charged with being a Romanian-Moldovan spy, to the 74-year-old scientist Viktor Kudryavtsev, who the FSB claims passed secret information to Western intelligence services. The more absurd these cases, the more effective the distraction from the social problems that are so costly for the Russian president.”

 

The Foreign Policy Research Institute looks at the strategic implications of the Syrian offensive at Idlib.  They conclude, “Syria will remain a fractured country and society requiring major international assistance for a generation or more. UN officials have warned that an assault on Idlib could result in the “worst humanitarian catastrophe” of the 21st The Trump administration is reluctant to play a significant role in funding these efforts and has already suspended financing for stabilization projects in Syria. Instead, the administration is pressing other coalition partners for contributions…Ignoring the task of rebuilding Syria risks another failed state that remains mired in conflict, continues to generate refugee flows that jeopardize the stability of neighboring Jordan and Lebanon, and provides fuel and space to terrorists groups exploiting the fears and vulnerabilities of local populations…These enduring features of a post-civil war Syria will require U.S. policymakers to fundamentally reassess America’s strategic objectives in Syria, develop a coherent strategy engaging all instruments of national power to achieve those goals, and then tailor the specific missions and composition of whatever U.S. military forces are to remain.”

 

The Washington Institute looks at ending the Yemen war without creating another Hezbollah.  They note, “The Houthis aren’t yet an Iranian-controlled proxy but Iran’s current level of influence with the movement easily could grow in future years — particularly if Tehran can covertly send arms via a Houthi-controlled Red Sea coastline or unmonitored air transportation. The United Nations has stated that the Houthis are using Iranian-provided ballistic missiles and drones, and investigations are under way that Iran also provided anti-shipping weapons and surface-to-air missiles. If the international arms embargo is relaxed, Iran could provide years’ worth of ballistic missiles capable of hitting Riyadh in just a few shiploads via any of the three Red Sea ports currently under their control. The Houthis are largely known outside Yemen as the victims of Saudi airstrikes, but for over 15 years, at every major event, they have chanted the slogan: “Death to America, death to Israel, curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam!” Their anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israeli worldview is closely aligned with the other “Axis of Resistance” actors such as Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq… All this means that the war must end, but it should not end with a “southern Hezbollah” on the Red Sea to match the northern Hezbollah on the Mediterranean.”

 

The Washington Institute looks at how to sanction Iranian militias in Iraq.  One policy recommendation is, “Don’t interrupt Iran while it is making mistakes. Tehran is suffering some of its most public and dramatic setbacks in Iraq since 2003, with protestors chanting “Iran out,” burning images of the Supreme Leader, and looting the Basra consulate. Wading in right now with comprehensive U.S. sanctions on AAH and HHN would only give Tehran a welcome distraction from these challenges—specifically, a means of changing the narrative, whipping up Iraqi nationalism, and putting pressure on its Iraqi political rivals to defend the two groups.”

 

 

ANALYSIS

 

Situation Continues to Heat up

in and Around Syria

It may seem hard to believe, but the situation in Syria between Syria, Russia, Israel, and the US continues to heat up.  Two incidents that created more tension was a shooting down of a Russian military aircraft after it was used by Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft as a blind to close in on Syrian airspace.  The second incident was the deployment of an American Marine Company in northeast Syria and the deployment of Carrier Truman and its battle group to the Mediterranean

What happened and how will these incidents impact the ongoing fighting in Syria?

Speaking alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump said the Monday night downing of a Russian maritime surveillance plane by accidental Syrian friendly fire was “a very sad thing,” Trump's remarks seemed to signal regret over Monday night's dramatic escalation over Syria after a massive Israeli attack.

On Tuesday, Russia had pointed the finger at Israel for purposefully provoking the mishap, something Israel has since denied in a military statement that ultimately put blame on president Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah.

While addressing the Syrian situation with his Polish counterpart, President Trump indicated that a decision on the future of US policy in Syria is coming soon.  Trump also said that the US fight against ISIS in Syria could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said of the Pentagon mission against ISIS.

He then followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

Although some in Washington have indicated that Trump has been persuaded to remain in Syria indefinitely, Trump’s comments seemed to indicate otherwise.

Of course, it is possible that Monday's attack involving Israeli missiles and the downing of a Russian plane might have reinforced Trump’s original decision to withdraw from the Syrian quagmire.  Both Russia and the US are afraid that the current situation could lead to an accidental engagement between Russian and American aircraft.

Monday's events also came just after Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart President Erdogan announced that a demilitarized zone in Idlib will be formed by October 15. As part of the deal Russia and Syria have reportedly called off the major offensive on Idlib, and Turkey has vowed to facilitate the withdrawal of the al-Qaeda groups in control of Idlib to Jisr al-Shughour near the Turkish border.

The Russia-Turkey deal over Idlib has at least temporarily reduced the threat that the US would intervene under the pretext of Syria (or someone else) launch a chemical weapons attack.

The downing of the Russian aircraft was a result of a massive Israeli missile attack earlier this week.  The IDF did admit to launching the massive Monday evening attack, which involved strikes on locations across four Syrian provinces, but insisted that its military action was defensive in nature.

The IDF said it targeted sites “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”  The IDF said "these weapons were meant to attack Israel and posed an intolerable threat against it.”

One of the sites attacked early in the hour-plus long assault was a scientific research center, which Israel has alleged is used to develop chemical weapons.

What made this incident much more serious was the fact that a Russian Il-20 surveillance aircraft was shot down with the loss of 15 Russian lives.

While Russia had previously blamed Israel for the downing of the plane, it later said that Israel intended to use the Russian plane as "cover" during the attack.

A spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense said Russia believes the attack was a set-up, with Israeli aircraft hoping to use the Russian plane as cover from Syrian air defenses. Since the Russian aircraft had much larger radar profile than the Israeli aircraft, the Syrian defense systems would naturally latch on to the Il-20, according to the prior Russian Ministry of Defense statement.

"The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. Consequently, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile," the statement said.

Russia further confirmed that Israel notified Russia of the impending massive attack on Syrian targets through the military-to-military hotline set up to prevent such "accidents" but only gave a one-minute notice, which didn't allow Russian aircraft to evacuate the area.

The use of larger aircraft to hide behind while penetrating restricted airspace is a common tactic used by Russian and NATO aircraft.  Modern fighter aircraft are much smaller than most commercial aircraft, especially modern cargo or passenger aircraft.  Therefore, a military aircraft can easily merge its radar signature into that of the larger aircraft and enter “hostile” airspace without being noticed – especially since commercial radar doesn’t have the resolution of modern military radar.

In this case, the Syrian military radar was not of a modern design.  The Syrian air defense system (the S200 or the NATO designation, SA-5 Gammon) that allegedly shot down the Russian aircraft is an old system designed in the 1950s and fielded in the 1960s to defeat large bomber attacks into the USSR.  According to reports, it still uses vacuum tubes instead of solid-state electronics.

Not only is the system obsolete (the Soviet Union started deactivating the missile batteries in the 1980s and 1990s), it appears as if the Syrians were unable to maintain them.  During the initial years of the Syrian Civil War, parts of the S-200 systems were occasionally spotted when Syrian Air Defense sites were overrun by rebel forces. Most notably radars, missiles and other equipment belonging to S-200 system were pictured while in disrepair when rebels overtook the air defense site in Eastern Ghouta in October 2012.

Although the Russians have repaired the Syrian air defense sites since then, they have remained insufficient response when employed against the Israeli Air Force (IAF) attacks.

On 17 March 17, 2017, the Israeli Air Force attacked a number of Syrian armed forces targets near Palmyria in Syria.  The Israeli Air Force sent four aircraft through Lebanon’s airspace and launched missiles toward Syrian territory. The Syrian Air Defense force was able to track two aircraft and fired missiles while they were still over Lebanon.  One of the Syrian missiles lost its target was headed towards a populated area when Israeli missile defense fired at least one Arrow missile which intercepted the incoming missile.  Two other S-200 missiles landed in other parts of Israel after losing their target.

The fact that Israeli fighter aircraft regularly “spoof” Syrian S200 missile systems, while a Russian surveillance aircraft was unable to defend itself against one of Russia’s own old missile systems, probably says something about Syria’s and Russia’s military level of coordination when it comes to Israeli threat.

Obviously, the S200 and its Syrian operators were unable to keep the S200 missile from “locking on” and hitting a Russian aircraft.  That indicates a lack of certain necessary procedures of Syrian operators since in nearly any air defense scenario, both enemy and friendly aircraft will be in the air at the same time, but we cannot rule out the effect of electronic countermeasures employed by the Israelis.

The incident also indicates that Russian pilots are unable to break the radar lock from its own air defense systems.  The S200 uses the 5N62 (NATO designation, Square Pair) H band continuous wave radar, with terminal semi-active radar homing, which Russian pilots should know how to “spoof” since they are flying in an air defense system not under their own control.

The fact that the Russian pilot apparently was unaware that his aircraft was being “painted” by the S200 fire control radar and didn’t know how to successfully avoid the missile, indicates that the Russian air forces currently stationed in Syria aren’t as well prepared and well trained as they should be.

The Marines Land in Syria

The Israeli missile attack on Syria wasn’t the only military action in Syria.

In what seems to be a military response to the large Russian naval force operating in the Eastern Mediterranean, the US sent about 100 US Marines into Syria to carry out exercises with America’s Syrian rebel allies.  It also came after Russia warned that its force could attack the US occupied garrison in At Tanf.

The US said, “The exercise was conducted to reinforce our capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces within our area of operations.”

The forces reinforced a 55 km radius “deconfliction zone around its garrison in At Tanf, which has been declared “off limits” to others.

To show the Syrians, Iranians, and Russians that it is serious, the US shifted the USS Essex (LHD 2) from the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea.  It is the flagship of the Marine Expeditionary Group (MEU) and carries the most modern US fighter the F-35.

The MEU and Amphibious Ready Group consist of three amphibious warfare ships and a heavily reinforced and mobile Marine Battalion.  They could quickly move into American controlled territory in Syria if necessary.

If that isn’t enough, the Navy announced that the aircraft carrier USS Truman will be heading towards the Mediterranean with the other ships of its carrier strike group.  The Navy has been quite secretive about the Truman’s movements, but it could be on station in the Eastern Mediterranean within days.  The carrier also has the new F-35 stealth fighter.

It is unknown if the USS Truman will head to the Arabian Sea or remain in the Mediterranean.  During its last deployment earlier this year, they stayed out of the Arabian Sea area.

If the USS Truman remains on station off Syria, we can expect to see some of the same type of activity that occurred between NATO and Soviet ships during the Cold War.  While the Russian Anti-Submarine units try to detect US submarines, the Russian combatants will follow the US ships, especially the USS Truman.  US and Soviet ships did this for decades without any serious incidents.

Of course, there is the question of what will happen if the US decides to carry out operations in Syria?  If a strike is planned, the US ships involved will likely move away from the Syrian coast and into open seas.  This will leave the Russians on the horns of a dilemma.  Should they move with the US fleet or stay near the Syrian coast to provide air defense?

And, could the Russian ships provide better air defense than they did against Israeli aircraft this week?

The fact is that US naval assets in the region are more capable than the Russian ships in terms of strike capability, air defense, and anti-sub warfare.  The two dozen Russian ships wouldn’t be able to cover all possible strike scenarios, especially since all of the US ships can launch cruise missiles.

If the Russian ships move west with the US fleet, this would leave US ships in the Red Sea free to carry out the strike, by flying over Jordan and Israel.  The Essex task force in the Red Sea could also use cruise missiles.

If the Russian ships are unable to track the US submarines, the submarines could launch cruise missiles.

It’s quite likely that the USS Truman carrier air group would not be used in any attack.  Rather, they would be used as a decoy to move Russian ships out of position off the Syrian coast.

These two incidents indicate that all sides are serious about maintaining their positions and policies, while limiting the danger of escalation.

Meanwhile, although the Russians are understandably upset with Israel, they have learned some lessons about flying inside an active air defense zone – even if it is under the control of an ally.

Russia will continue to remain in Syria.  However, don’t be surprised if they integrate Syria’s entire air defense under Russian control.

In the meantime, expect the US to keep a low-profile Special Forces footprint in Syria to “deter” president Assad, Russia, Iran, and Turkey.  That small SF presence will also be able to be reinforced if necessary with a Marine amphibious force that is always in the Middle East.  That will keep Assad and his allies from trying to force the US out of the region.

In the meantime, Syria is very reminiscent of the Balkans before World War One.  There is no reason for events there to cause a major war; however, there is every reason to think that the major powers in the region can blunder into one.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Telling the Truth About the War in Afghanistan

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

September 12, 2018

 

Anyone who has lived through the lies the U.S. government told about the war in Vietnam, or its failure to honestly report the uncertainties regarding Iraq’s continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction that led to the U.S. invasion in 2003, knows how dangerous it is for the U.S. government to paint a false impression of success in a war or crisis, and to lie directly or by omission. Anyone who has served in the U.S. government also knows how tempting it is for officials, commanders, and public affairs officers to “spin” the course of a war in favorable terms, to pressure the intelligence community for favorable results or silence, and to shape internal planning and analysis around comforting assumptions and illusions. As Clausewitz touched upon in his classic writing – On War – the fog of war is partly inevitable, but it also can easily become a self-inflicted wound. Creating a fantasy world is the worst possible way to shape a strategy, commit resources, and try to sustain a conflict.

Read more at:

https://www.csis.org/analysis/telling-truth-about-war-afghanistan

 

 

No Silver Bullet: Assessing Light Attack Aircraft

By John Venable

Heritage Foundation

Sep 14, 2018

 

The fiscal year (FY) 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference summary expanded the aperture for potential employment of the light attack aircraft (LAA) concept. The legislation that has been signed by President Trump directs the Secretary of Defense to, among other things, reassess how the military will conduct counterterrorism missions at a more sustainable cost of both military readiness and resources.  LAA systems appear to offer support for the U.S. Air Force to purchase an “off the shelf” aircraft that, for all appearances, is much cheaper to acquire and operate than the current inventory of U.S. fighter aircraft, while offering a relatively comparable capability in low-threat environments. At present, the Air Force uses advanced tactical fighters to support U.S. and partner operations in all combat settings—even those involving terrorist or insurgent groups of very limited capability. The LAA concept was envisioned to provide a less costly capability of greater relevance in these low-threat situations.

Read more at:

https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/no-silver-bullet-assessing-light-attack-aircraft

 

 

Why Putin’s Approval Ratings Are Declining Sharply

By ANDREI KOLESNIKOV

Carnegie Endowment

August 15, 2018

 

Perhaps no figure has loomed larger on the world stage of late than Russian President Vladimir Putin. His recent summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki, U.S. concerns about future Russian interference after the 2016 presidential election, the Kremlin’s resurgence as a decisive player in the Middle East, and, of course, Putin’s easy reelection in March all seem to point to his continued strength. Yet they may also conceal a growing weakness.  Russia’s annexation of Crimea, in March 2014, was a boon for Putin’s approval ratings. Hovering around 61 to 65 percent before the seizure, they climbed to dizzying heights of above 80 percent thereafter. For many Russians, Putin’s territorial grab restored the country’s national greatness, and for that they rewarded him with increased support. In the last few months, however, rising public frustrations over domestic policy and a government proposal to weaken the social safety net have led to a sharp decline in Putin’s popularity. For Russia’s political class, this decline is a sign that Putin’s ratings have lost their cloak of invulnerability, a development that could have real implications for his new term and the potential succession fight to follow.

Read more at:

https://carnegie.ru/2018/08/15/why-putin-s-approval-ratings-are-declining-sharply-pub-77049

 

 

Strategic Implications of the Syrian Offensive in Idlib

By Christopher J. Bolan

Foreign Policy Research Institute

September 17, 2018

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces appear poised to launch an offensive operation to retake all or portions of Syria’s last major remaining oppositionist stronghold in the Idlib province. All major players in this looming battle are posturing to shape the nature and extent of this upcoming campaign in ways that advance their particular interests.  Idlib is a province located in northwestern Syria. Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, Idlib has been the site of frequent confrontation between the Syrian Armed Forces and any number of opposition forces—whether “moderate” such as the Free Syrian Army or others linked in varying degrees to radical jihadi terrorist groups including al-Qaeda. In the summer of 2017, Idlib was one of four so-called de-escalation zones established jointly by Russia, Turkey, and Iran aimed at reducing the violence between rebel and Syrian government forces. The Syrian government and its backers, however, have regularly exploited a loophole in these agreements that permits fighting against terrorist groups to reconquer one rebel enclave after another. The techniques to secure these military victories often included massive bombing of civilian infrastructure including hospitals and schools and devastating sieges designed to starve entire populations into submission. Often, the terms of surrendering these territories back to Assad’s control involved transferring remaining rebel forces and isolated civilians to the province of Idlib doubling its population to some three million people. As a result of Assad’s military victories elsewhere and these transfers of rebel forces, Idlib today remains the single major bastion of remaining opposition forces in Syria.

Read more at:

https://www.fpri.org/article/2018/09/strategic-implications-of-the-syrian-offensive-in-idlib/

 

 

Ending Yemen’s War Without Perpetuating a ‘Southern Hezbollah’

By Michael Knights

Washington Institute

September 12, 2018

The Hill

 

For all the horror of the Yemen war, U.S. policymakers and legislators should not lose sight of the strategic outcome it was intended to avert—the establishment of an Iranian-supplied “southern Hezbollah” on the Arabian Peninsula, flanking the Suez Canal and posing a new missile threat to Saudi Arabia and Israel. I visited the country’s battlefronts on three research visits this year and interviewed dozens of Yemeni and Gulf coalition officers, intelligence officials, leaders and civilians on what they have learned about the Houthis as an adversary. The research, published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, paints a graphic picture of a movement that is more ambitious and more hostile to U.S. interests than is widely understood.

Read more at:

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/ending-yemens-war-without-perpetuating-a-southern-hezbollah

 

 

The Smart Way to Sanction Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq

By Michael Knights, Barbara A. Leaf, Matthew Levitt, and Phillip Smyth

Washington Institute

September 17, 2018

 

On September 19, the Senate will introduce the “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act,” which calls for imposing U.S. sanctions on two Iranian-controlled Iraqi militias, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN). If passed, the legislation will also require the State Department to maintain a public list of armed groups funded, controlled, or influenced by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The draft bill follows a September 11 White House warning to Tehran about reining in its proxy militias after successive rocket attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Iraq. On September 7-8, three 107 mm rockets and one 122 mm rocket were fired from east Baghdad toward the Baghdad embassy complex a few hours after protestors burned Iran’s consulate in Basra. On September 8, two more salvoes of 107 mm rockets were fired at the U.S. Consulate General adjacent to Basra Airport. No casualties or damage were reported, and it is unclear whether the rockets were intended to hit U.S. facilities or land nearby as a warning shot. The White House communique noted, “The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States Government facilities. America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives.”

Read more at:

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-smart-way-to-sanction-iranian-backed-militias-in-iraq

 

Mounzer A. Sleiman, Ph.D.

Center for American and Arab Studies

Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org