In case it wasn’t clear enough what was set to happen soon after the Russian air force had spent a few days softening up anti-regime positions on the ground, allow us to spell it out: with the opposition on the run thanks to five days of aerial bombardment, Iran will now send in the Hezbollah/Shiite militia/Quds clean up crew, who will personally ensure that whoever is left in the wake of the Su-34 strikes is swiftly eliminated at close range.
You see, this is how you conduct an actual war and you needn’t be a West Point graduate to understand it. Russia has essentially debilitated Assad’s opposition from the air and now, Iran will (both figuratively and literally in all likelihood), simply walk up and execute anyone who’s left and that, as they say, will be that. Of course Damascus will get to claim that the SAA emerged victorious with the help of Russian air support, but in reality, there is no SAA. Just as we said weeks ago, the ground campaign is being orchestrated from Damascus by Quds commander Qasem Soleimani. Here’s Reuters:
The Russian government says its Syria deployment came as the result of a formal request from Assad, who himself laid out the problems facing the Syrian military in stark terms in July, saying it faced a manpower problem.
Khamenei also sent a senior envoy to Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin, another senior regional official said. "Putin told him 'Okay we will intervene. Send Qassem Soleimani'.
"Soleimani is almost resident in Damascus, or let's say he goes there a lot and you can find him between meetings with President Assad and visits to the theater of operations like any other soldier," said one of the senior regional officials.
What’s going on here really couldn’t be much clearer. Iran is simply taking over Syria with the help of the Russian military juggernaut and as we’ve documented exhaustively, Putin gets to spin the entire Mid-East power grab as a “war on terror.” Here’s AP (reporting from Beirut by the way, so just Google “Hezbollah, Iran, Lebanon,” and draw your own conclusions about who’s feeding them these headlines):
Syrian troops, emboldened by Russian airstrikes, launch a ground offensive against insurgents.
Again, there are no “Syrian troops.” They were defeated a long, long time ago, but there are most certainly dozens of fierce Shiite militias from Iraq and there’s always Hezbollah and when you combine these groups with the Russian air force, what you get is a formidable land/air military presence and now, Moscow is also firing on anti-regime targets from the sea. Here’s RT:
Four Russian Navy warships have fired a total of 26 missiles at the position of the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced. The missiles were fired from the Caspian Sea.
“Four missile ships launched 26 cruise missiles at 11 targets. According to objective control data, all the targets were destroyed. No civilian objects sustained damage,” Shoigu said.
The missiles flew some 1,500 km before reaching their targets, probing their efficiency.
The missile attacks came from Russia’s fleet in the Caspian Sea, which borders Russia, Iran and three other littoral countries. The precision weapons hit all intended targets.
The attacks apparently required cooperation from Iran and Iraq, as the missiles had to travel through their airspace to reach Syria.
Yes, “the attacks apparently required cooperation from Iran and Iraq” which we certainly imagine wasn’t too difficult for Moscow to obtain, because as we outlined in “Mid-East Coup: As Russia Pounds Militant Targets, Iran Readies Ground Invasions While Saudis Panic", this was the plan all along. Skeptical? That's ok, just consider the following out today from WSJ:
Iraqi Shiite lawmakers and militia leaders are urging Russia to launch airstrikes on Islamic State militants in their country, an escalation that would heighten tensions with Washington and increase risks of a clash between the two powers.
Since Moscow began bombing opponents of the regime in Syria last week, Iraq’s Shiite politicians, who dominate government, have been largely united in their praise of Moscow’s intervention and in calls for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to invite Russia to join the battle. Mr. Abadi said he would welcome Russian strikes as long as they were coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition’s air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq.
“We welcome Russian airstrikes in Iraq to help hit Islamic State headquarters, target Islamic State supply lines from Syria and target the oil smuggling lines,” said Moeen al-Kadhimi, a spokesman for the Badr Corps, an Iranian-backed militia and political party that plays a front-line role in fighting Islamic State. “We welcome Russia as they have advanced military technology and can help with intelligence.”
For Moscow, any involvement in Iraq would be even more complicated than its current Syria gambit. A Kremlin play in Iraq is likely to spotlight weaknesses of U.S. policy there, while exposing the contradictions in the Iraqi government’s dueling alliances, said Anthony Cordesman, a longtime Iraq analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It would be difficult to sustain congressional support for an Iraq playing off Iran and Russia against the U.S.,” he said. “The administration would have very tough calls to make.”
Options would include leaving Iraq or finding a way to operate in parallel with Russia and Iran, raising questions about broader U.S. goals in Iraq.
“We don’t really have a strategy, just a set of short-term engagements,” he said.
No, Washington doesn't "really have a strategy" in Iraq, but do you know who does? Tehran. And the very same General who is running the Syrian gound war from Damascus and who Putin sent for directly to organize the entire campaign has long been known to control these Iraqi Shiite lawmakers and millitia leaders and now, Russia is apparently set to just kick the US out of Iraq altogether.
And while Russia literally takes over the Mid-East, the West is busy trying to find silly excuses to claim that Moscow is in violation of NATO members' sovereignty. Here's CNN:
Russian involvement in the 4½-year-old Syrian civil war seems to be escalating, with NATO's secretary general confirming Tuesday a second incursion by Russian planes into Turkish airspace and saying Russian ground troops were in Syria as well.
"It's unacceptable, it's dangerous, and it's reckless behavior and it adds to the tensions," Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN about the incursions into Turkish airspace.
"We see the violation of the Turkish airspace becomes more important, more dangerous, because it happens in a context where we see more fighting, more Russian military presence in Syria."
So basically, Washington wants the public to focus on some Russian fighter jets that may or may not have accidentally crossed into Turkey's airspace, because after all, the good folks in Ankara are allies of the West, and because they are allies you should pay no attention to the fact that the Erdogan government is systematically exterminating its political opposition in the name of a fake fight against the very same group of terrorists who Putin is actually fighting. In other words: NATO is crying foul because Moscow, in its attempts to fight the terrorists that Turkey has helped to support all along, accidently flew a few miles into Turkey's airspace.
As you can see from the above, the Western hypocrisy and outright panic is accelerating here as Washington is simply bewildered about what to do next. Meanwhile, the Russian military has, in the space of a week, cleared the way (literally) for an Iranian gound invasion in Syria on behalf of Assad. Once that's finished (which, if recent events are any indication, should be in about two weeks), the entire campaign will shift to Iraq, where the US will either need to confront Russia or simply pack up and leave.
On the "bright" side, open war between Russia and the US would be great for GDP growth...