Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

September 20, 2019

By Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog

August was an eventful month for the Syrian Army and its allies as the battle for northwestern Syria saw a breakthrough after months of static frontline movements. Just like in the previous 3 years, the month of August has been one accompanied by important victories for Damascus. The Syrian Army managed to break through the jihadist lines at the Khan Sheikhoun front and from there steamrolled through the entire frontline, eventually encircling and trapping the jihadist militants in a pocket in northern Hama. Despite counteroffensives launched by Tahrir Al-Sham and their allies from the “Rouse the believers” operations room, the SAA managed to hold on to the newly liberated areas.

With this development, Hama city and Christian towns such as Mhardeh are now safe from the encroaching jihadist threat. This offensive should be expanded now that the Syrian Army still has the initiative, especially with the jihadist morale still shaken by the loss of their doorway into Hama. It is important for Damascus to clear out the remainder of the Latakia province as well as western Aleppo since both these areas are heavily populated and hold strategic value. If Latakia and Aleppo are cleared, then the jihadist threat will be contained to a single province in the country, leaving them pretty much besieged in Idlib as Ankara’s support seems to be fading, as evident by their passiveness during the Syrian Army’s August offensive.

Since the conclusion of the offensive, with a new ceasefire having been declared and expired, the Syrian Army is said to be amassing troops near the Al-Ghaab front in a potential move to completely kick the jihadists out of Hama and thereby finally paving the way for the liberation of Jisr Al-Shughour. This news seems to have been expected by the Jihadists as the Jaysh Al-Izza terrorist outfit has already begun making preparations for the upcoming battle, reportedly sending over 2000 men to the Western Hama countryside. The Syrian Army would do well to be careful here as the key hilltop town of Kabani, overlooking Jisr Al-Shughour still hasn’t been liberated.

Meanwhile, last weekend saw more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production go down in flames as the Saudi Aramco oilfields and refineries came under heavy drone attacks. The attacks caused the greatest drop in oil production in history, prompting oil prices to jump 19 percent. If oil prices rise further, the world will inch closer to a global recession, which, among other things, could cost Trump his reelection. Immediately after the attacks, the Yemeni Houthis issued a statement where they took responsibility for the attacks with the movement’s spokesperson General Yahya Sare’e adding that 10 drones were deployed against the sites at Khurais and Abqaiq. “This was one of the largest operations which our forces have carried out deep inside Saudi Arabia. It came after careful intelligence and cooperation with honorable and free people inside Saudi Arabia,” he said without elaboration.

Washington was quick to dismiss the Houthi claim of responsibility when Trump said that Washington has “reason to believe that we know the culprit,” noting that Washington is “locked and loaded depending on verification” and is waiting to “hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack.” The same response was voiced by Pompeo and Lindsey Graham who called for Washington to strike Iran in an attempt to “break the regime’s back”.

Surely Washington understands how embarrassing this debacle is for them. The Saudis have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on purchasing US military equipment and weapons. Equipment and weapons that Washington has spent quite some time claiming is superior to anything else the world has to offer. Last week, a Saudi prince took to twitter and claimed that Saudi Arabia could “destroy Iran in 8 hours”, adding that Iran’s military technology belong to the “museum”.

That same claimed superior weaponry failed to stop a single attack that took out half of the kingdom’s oil production. This makes me wonder if they’re laying the blame on Iran in order to cover up the even greater embarrassment, that American and Saudi military forces and their networks of advanced air defenses never detected the Yemeni drones that were launched on Saturday to strike oil facilities deep inside Saudi Arabia, proving futile the billions of dollars that the Riyadh regime has spent on them to protect its territories. What message does this send to US vassals around the world? In an attempt to downplay the uselessness of the Patriot system, Pompeo, sounding surprised by the vastness of the operation, said: “This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.”

Really? Never seen before? So the thousands of drone strikes that Washington has launched across the Islamic world is something that they’ve never seen before?

In any case, Pompeo immediately traveled to Riyadh to assure Washington’s vassals that everything is under control, and to discuss “potential responses”, calling the incident “an act of war”. By now, this blame game has become routine, Washington keeps using the same miserable strategy of intimidation, thinking it will work at the 500th attempt.

So here we are again, another dubious incident in which Tehran is held responsible, without any evidence presented. Of course, Tehran didn’t just stand idly by while Washington made these threats, both Ayatollah Khamenei and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued separate responses, vehemently denying Iran’s role in the attack and warning that any attack on Iran would spark an all out war. Khamenei also went on to talk about the importance of not falling for the failed US maximum pressure campaign, which this is all about. Speaking on Tuesday, Khamenei said entering talks with the US under the current circumstances would be tantamount to surrendering to Washington’s pressure campaign. “Negotiating would mean Washington imposing its demands on Tehran. It would also be a manifestation of the victory of America’s maximum pressure campaign,” he noted.

Thus, the Islamic Republic has correctly calculated that Washington’s maximum pressure campaign is nothing but a bluff to intimidate Iran into entering negotiations. Khamenei said “I had already said that America’s objective of [pursuing] talks is to impose [its demands], but they have become so insolent that they even speak about this openly.”

“The US regime is after making its domestic rivals and the Europeans accept this as a definitive policy that maximum pressure is the only way to confront Iran,” added Ayatollah Khamenei. “Their objective in [offering to hold] talks is to prove to everyone that the policy of maximum pressure has yielded results, and that Iranian authorities were forced to come to the negotiating table despite what they said.”

The most probable conclusion is that there won’t be a war. Washington knows very well that it cannot afford a regional war, especially not now when Washington has been exposed for not being able to defend its vassals. If indeed Iran was behind this attack, then one can imagine that if a single drone strike took out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, imagine what an all-out war would result in for Washington and its vassals. The consequences of this debacle can be very severe for Washington in the future as Moscow has already offered the Arab states to purchase Russian weaponry instead, slowly outmanoeuvring Washington as was the case with Turkey and the S-400 deal. It is a real pathetic mess that Washington has got itself into. Washington’s own allies won’t even back their lies. “We are not aware of any information that points to Iran,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

“We believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility,” he added, referring to the Yemeni group incorporated into the armed forces fighting back a Saudi-led war on Yemen.

Washington’s list of options grows thin, the US better retract its words, repent and return to the nuclear accord that it has violated or see itself fall even further into decay as Washington’s days of being the sole unipolar power that everyone used to fear are quickly fading away.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – SEPTEMBER 12, 2019: RUSSIA RESUMES STRIKES ON TERRORISTS IN IDLIB

South Front

On September 11, the US-backed Revolutionary Commando Army claimed that it had repelled a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) attack in the 55km zone surrounding the US military garrison in al-Tanf. The militant group said that SAA units advanced using a Red Cross visit to civilians in the area.

A Syrian military source, stationed around the 55km zone, denied these claims. The source told SouthFront that no clashes happened in the area. There are about 300 Revolutionary Commando Army militants stationed in al-Tanf. They receive training, weapons and supplies from the US-led coalition despite multiple scandals surrounding this cooperation. Earlier in 2019, the group’s spokesperson, Mohamad Mostafa al-Jarrah, was caught raping a 10-year old girl from the nearby refugee camp.

A prominent Hayat Tahrir al-Sham commander, Abu Abd al-Ashda, left the militant group accusing its current leadership of massive corruption, and failing to defend militants’ territories in northern Hama during the recent SAA advance. According to him, millions of dollars that HTS had for rearmament simply disappeared.

Meanwhile, another key Hayat Tahrir al-Sham commander, Abu Abdul Mohsen al-Jazrawi, was assassinated in southeastern Idlib. The incident happened near the town of Saraqib on September 10. Al-Jazrawi, a Saudi citizen, was reportedly a close aide of the terrorist group leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani.

In the last few months, several prominent foreign terrorists were assassinated in Greater Idlib. The perpetrators of most of these attacks remain unknown.

On September 11, Syrian and Russian warplanes bombed positions of terrorists near the towns of Kafar Takharim and Darkush. The airstrikes were likely a response to the recently increased number of violations by militants in southern Idlib.

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Political analyst to ST: The so-called US-Turkish “Safe zone” means nothing in strategic terms

ST

The researcher in political and military affairs Basem al-Shihawi has underscored that there are both political and military reasons behind the terrorist organizations’ repeated drone attacks against Syrian military posts in Hama and Hmeimim airbase in Lattakia.

He told the Syria Times e-newspaper that terrorists groups holed up in Idlib province would never launch such attacks without Turkey’s permission.

“First of all, it is needless to say that terrorist groups in Idlib province are controlled by Turkey, and that they would never launch such attacks without it’s permission, this is a key point in order to analyse those attacks,” he said.

The researcher added: “Ankara wants those attacks to take place in order to blackmail Moscow politically since it demonstrates Ankara’s influence over terrorists, and Ankara hopes that the drone attacks will force Russia to yield to Erdogan’s demands regarding the awaited constitutional committee and other political goals in Syria.”

He made it clear that the military reasons for the terrorists’ drone attacks are to limit the Russian Air Force’s ability to conduct efficient airstrikes against Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, to hinder Hmeimim’s role in supporting Syrian Air force, to force the Russian military command to focus more on protecting its military base, and to put more pressure over Russian and Syrian anti-air defences.

“As for the continuous attacks being carried out by terrorists despite the de-escalation zone agreement, let’s all remember that the terrorists never abided by it, and this is the reason the Syrian army launched a military operation in order to liberate northern Hama in the first place,” al-Shihawi stressed.

He referred to the fact that suicide drone attacks never stopped since the very arrival of the Russian Air Force to Syria.

“Time and again the attacks became more intense as the terrorists not only started to launch more drones, but more sophisticated ones according to the Russian Defence Ministry who declared, after examining shutdown drones, that they are based on western technology,” the researcher stated.

Erdogan wants to achieve victory over the Kurds in Syria

Regarding the so-called American-Turkish “Safe zone”, al-Shihawi declared that besides being illegal, it means nothing in strategical terms.

“Considering the fact that this region is under American occupation with the help of the so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’, Washington can give whatever promises to Turkey, but is that what Erdogan actually wants?”

He believes that Erdogan’s goal is not a “safe zone”.

“What Erdogan really wants, in order to secure his position against his political rivals inside Turkey and the unsatisfied Turkish military, is a clear victory over the Kurds in Syria, a victory that allows Erdogan to conduct a demographic change in northern Syria, planting pro-Turkey Syrian refugees all over the area, which is something neither Washington is able to give, nor Turkey is capable to achieve,” the researcher affirmed.

He concluded by saying: “The most important factor is neither of the above mentioned, the most important factor is the Syrian Arab Army and its allies that are getting closer from ending Idlib issue, and the moment Idlib is liberated, the occupied east and north will be the focal point for the Syrian Army, a game changer that is going to hinder all Turkish and American plans very soon.”

Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – SEPTEMBER 6, 2019: US SEEKS TO DESTABILIZE SOUTHERN SYRIA

South Front

The US is seeking to reanimate insurgency in southern Syria. According to the pro-militant Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a number of Free Syrian Army commanders that fled Syria in 2018 are now working to form a new militant group, the Army of the South, to attack “Iranian militias” in the region. The allegedly closed U.S. Military Operation Center in Jordan will reportedly support the new group.

Over the past few months, the security situation in southern Syria became more complicated with an increasing number of IED attacks and assassinations aimed against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

The SAA uncovered loads of weapons during a search operation in the newly-captured town of al-Lataminah in northern Hama. The discovered weapons included several mortar cannons of different calibers, at least two Grad 122mm rockets, RPG-18 and RPG-26 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades as well as a RPO-A thermobaric rocket launcher.

Militants of Jaysh al-Izza, a close ally of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, apparently left behind these weapons. The group’s members fled the town last month following a successful attack by the SAA.

On September 5, the Russian Defense Ministry denied recent reports claiming that several Russian service members were killed in a blast near the town of Jurin in northwestern Hama. These false claims were first published by Vedomosti business daily before being picked up by multiple Russian and Syrian media outlets.

Such reports appear to be a part of new propaganda wave aimed against the SAA and Russia. Such propaganda campaigns are often being launched amid important military or diplomatic developments in Syria, and the Middle East in general.

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In-depth footage of Syrian Army’s operation that led to capture of Khan Sheikhoun

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:45 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army began their long-awaited attack on the key city of Khan Sheikhoun ten days ago.

This operation would result in the capture of Khan Sheikhoun and the eventual encirclement of the militants in the northern Hama pocket.

Khan Sheikhoun was previously captured by the militant forces during their 2014 southern Idlib offensive; it would later become a stronghold for the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham.

Not long after cutting the road between Ta’manah and Khan Sheikhoun, the Syrian Arab Army managed to establish full control over the northern Hama pocket, putting an end to the militant presence in the area.

Since capturing Khan Sheikhoun and northern Hama, the Syrian Arab Army has moved their forces to the Al-Ghaab Plain and Ta’manah axes; these two areas are expected to be the next targets for the military.

Below is 30-minute-long video from the Anna News Agency that chronicles the entire operation and the eventual capture of Khan Sheikhoun and northern Hama:

ALSO READ  Syrian Army seizes rocket launchers, tank left behind by jihadists in Hama: video

Russian Air Force eliminates several militant sites, vehicles in southern Idlib: video

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:00 A.M.) – The Russian Air Force played a crucial role in the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) advance in southern Idlib recently, as their aircraft repeatedly struck the militant positions across the governorate.

In particular, the Russian Air Force’s heavy strikes on the city of Khan Sheikhoun and its surroundings helped pave the way for the Syrian Arab Army to capture the key hilltop of Talat Al-Nimr and eventually the whole area.

The Anna News Agency captured footage of the Russian strikes on the jihadist sites, including the destruction of militant convoys and their bases.

The Russian Air Force is still launching airstrikes over the southern countryside of Idlib; however, their strikes are now focused on preventing the militants from regrouping and launching a counter-offensive.

At the same time, the Syrian Arab Army has nearly finished their combing operations around Khan Sheikhoun and northern Hama; they still need to clear some areas that are believed to have explosives that were left behind by the militant forces.

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Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

By Mohammad Eid

Syria – It was not long before the Syrian Arab Army’s Political Administration invited journalists to visit Khan Sheikhoun and the rest of the liberated areas in the northern Hama countryside. The invitation coincided with a statement from the army regarding its military operation and the strategic importance of the liberated towns and cities.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

However, that did not diminish our interest in visiting towns that were until recently fortified fortresses, which the terrorists thought would protect them before they took on a definite loss.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

Journeying through the destruction

Despite the vast destruction along the way to Khan Sheikhoun, the largest town in the southern countryside of Idlib, there remained remnants of beauty that were clearly visible through the plains and fields linking these beautiful rural towns. The expulsion of terrorists from these towns, including Mahrada and al-Suqaylabiyah, was the first step. These towns paid the price for the inability of the terrorists to hurt the army. The terrorists instead chose to target civilians who they viewed as the soft side in the military operation that was launched in April. The outcome of the operation exceeded all expectations from a military standpoint.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

The car drove us from Hama countryside towards the towns of Kafr Zita, al-Hobeit and then Khan Sheikhoun, which is the jewel of the Syrian army’s definitive victory. It was remarkable how the degree of destruction diminished as we approached Khan Sheikhoun. The reason, as explained by the military commander who accompanied us, was that the terrorist groups attempted to defend this area through their advanced lines of defense in Hama’s northern countryside where the fiercest battles took place with the terrorists opening heavy fire.

“With the fall of the first lines of defense, the terrorists realized that their hope for resilience had begun to fade despite Turkish support. So they began to flee, lessening the intensity of the clashes as the rest of the areas were liberated by the army,” a field commander tells al-Ahed News Website.

A short stop in the town of al-Hobeit, captured by the Syrian Arab Army before paving the way to travel full speed ahead towards Khan Sheikhoun, allowed us to verify what the Director of the Political Administration in the Syrian Arab Army, Major General Hassan Hassan, told us when he visited the town accompanied by the Syrian Minister of Defense Ali Ayoub.

“I saw tunnels and massive fortifications in al-Hobeit. They formed an entire underground city. Were it not for the firmness and will of the men of the Syrian Arab Army, the liberation of this town would have required an unknown period of time,” Major General Hassan said.

This is how the troops advance

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

The extent of destruction in Khan Sheikhoun was indicative of the army’s ability to select a bank of targets with high accuracy. “The airstrikes paralyzed the coordination operations between the terrorists inside the city. This paved the way for the Syrian forces to enter it from the northwestern axis. The forces advancing from the east met with the forces advancing from the west. They took control of the Aleppo-Hama international road starting from Khan Sheikhoun. The militants, then, chose to escape before they were completely besieged. However, they left behind large amounts of mines and booby-traps, which would be handled by the engineers as required,” says the field commander.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

The fall of Khan Sheikhoun led to the siege of the last terrorist enclave in the northern countryside of Hama, the so-called Triangle of Death in Murk, al-Latamneh, and Kafr Zita. We asked the Syrian officer about the total area recovered by the army. He said it was “427 square kilometers, comprising a harsh and complex geography. And it was liberated in record time.”

Regarding the strategic dimension of the victory, the Syrian field commander pointed out that Khan Sheikhoun became a springboard for the Syrian army in Idlib Province after it reached it for the first time since 2014.

“It is an achievement that carries a lot of significance since Idlib itself is very close to liberation, especially since the army succeeded in isolating Khan Sheikhoun from Maarat al-Nu’man, which may be its first future destination. Most importantly, the morale of the terrorists has reached rock bottom. We have noticed this as they fled and avoided clashing with us in recent battles,” the Syrian field commander explained.

Wide-range advance options

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

While we toured, some soldiers found an opportunity to rest following the recent battles. Before taking a small nap, one soldier whispered that sleep has a different taste after victory, “but we sleep with both eyes open.”

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

After Khan Sheikhun, the Syrian army seemed to have more choices. When we told the officers and soldiers about Sochi, the famous agreement, the buffer zone and other political outcomes, the smile on their faces told the whole story. One of the soldiers put those smiles into words.

“What we know is that only strength and strength alone is what is allowing us to talk together in Khan Sheikhoun. Idlib is all of our land and we know how to regain it.”

The sweep up operations as well as the victory celebrations were still ongoing in Khan Sheikhoun. But dusty faces and looking at the horizon were preparing for something more. Something that says that Khan Sheikhoun was an important juncture, but no doubt there is more to come.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

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أهمّ دروس تحرير خان شيخون

 

أغسطس 24, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– أما وقد حسم الأمر فقد صار وقت التقييم واستخلاص العبر، فلا ينكرنّ أحد أن الرهانات على تعثّر الدولة السورية توزعت على مشارق الأرض ومغاربها، وأنه حيث لا رهانات كانت هناك تساؤلات وانتظارات. فالكل يُجمع على أن إدلب ليست كسواها، وان تجمع عشرات آلاف المسلحين الذين رفضوا التسويات في مناطقهم التي تحرّرت، يجعل الحرب لتحريرها شديدة الضراوة والقسوة محفوفة بالمخاطر والتضحيات والتساؤلات، وأن وجود آلاف الإرهابيين المقطوعي الجذور اليائسين من أي أفق بعد إدلب يمنح كل هذا المشهد القاتم مزيداً من السواد، وأن الحلف المناوئ للدولة السورية مهما ابتعد أو اقترب عن التشكيلات الإرهابية التي تقاتل في إدلب قد اجتاز الخط الأحمر للتعاون معها سابقاً وما عادت لديه مشكلة بإمدادها بكل أسباب الصمود، وأن تركيا التي لانت وتموضعت بعد معارك حلب إنما فعلت ذلك ليس فقط لأنها حسمت أمرها بالعجز عن المضي في المواجهة الكاملة، بل لأنها أرادت الحفاظ على دورها وحضورها في إدلب، وعندما يصبح مصير إدلب في الميزان يجب التريث في إصدار الأحكام حول كيفية تصرف أنقرة، ولا أيضاً في كيفية تصرف موسكو الحريصة على علاقة مميّزة مع أنقرة تبدّلت بين التصادم والتفاهم، واستقرت على سياق إيجابي رغم الخلاف لزمن غير قصير، لذلك كان الانتظار سيد الموقف.

– في كل معارك المنطقة حيث التكامل بين الجبهات واضح، وحيث التداخل بين تأثيرها على بعضها وموازينها أشد وضوحاً، كانت المواجهات ساخنة في الخليج مياهاً ويابسة، وفي اليمن، وفلسطين، ودخل على الخط تسخين العراق من دون مقدّمات، وتمّ بصورة مفاجئة تسخين لبنان، لكن المكان الوحيد الذي بدا أنه سيقول الكلمة الفصل هو خان شيخون، حيث مفتاح الجغرافيا في مصير إدلب،، حيث يمكن تحقيق تغيير في خطوط الجغرافيا من دون سائر جبهات المنطقة. وأما وقد وقع الأمر وانتهى، فمعادل التأثر والتأثير والأوعية المتصلة سيحضر بقوة. وهذا هو التفسير لحركة الرئيس الفرنسي للمسارعة للقاء الرئيس الروسي ومن بعده وزير الخارجية الإيرانية، وزيارة الرئيس التركي القريبة المرتقبة إلى روسيا، والتراجعات الأميركية عن تهديدات الويل والثبور وعظائم الأمور بحقّ لبنان، والجواب بكلمتين، إنه خان شيخون.

– السياق الجديد بات واضحاً بعد الذي جرى وحسم التساؤلات حول الإمكان، ودليل الإمكان هو الوقوع. وما وقع في خان شيخون قابل للتكرار، ولا حاجة لتجارب أخرى للإثبات، فإن عُرض على الطاولة ما يفي بالغرض من التسليم بمكانة روسيا إلى التعامل مع إيران وملفها النووي والعقوبات والملاحة النفطية، إلى الحل السياسي في سورية ومشاريع الحل وإعادة الإعمار، إلى اليمن، إلى العراق، إلى لبنان، إلى فلسطين، ولا أوهام لدى أحد بحلول جذرية بل اعتراف بحقائق القوة التي يتم على أساسها التفاوض، وإلا فالكلمة للميدان كما قالت خان شيخون.

– سيكون صعباً على البعض الاعتراف لكنها الحقيقة المرة عليهم، إنه الجيش السوري الذي لا يُقهر، ومحور المقاومة الذي لا يهزم، وروسيا التي لا تبيع ولا تشتري في المبادئ.

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