The world has watched in surprise as the leader of Syria, who would not abandon his country in war time, and the leader of Russia, a country that refused to be isolated, stood together in Moscow against the arrogant powers.
Iran and Iraq watched from the wings, taking care of business on their end from similar geopolitical aggressions from the Western-Israel-Gulf State musketeers, who have been wreaking havoc across the region. There is an old military saying, “Never underestimate your enemy”, where the updated form of that would be “never underestimate your victims’…because Russia and Syria never chose to be anyone’s enemies. The musketeers chose them to be victims.
America’s fall from grace as the spreader and protector of freedom and democracy is almost complete. A small Russian air wing, but a highly competent one, has turned the whole Syrian terror war upside down, with a combined operations display with the Syrian army that no one saw coming. And the most bitter pill of all, they have done this completely within the United Nations charter and international law, which their persecutors have treated with contempt.
But today I wanted to cover the combat tactics that were so crucial to turning the Syrian situation around as the blizzard of short combat action reports have blended into a blur for most readers. What we have seen happen is something that will be taught in military academies for a hundred years, like Confederate generals still are from our own unfortunate Civil War tragedy.
The first surprise came when the ground assault began after only a week of airstrikes from a modest number of planes, but long enough for Russia to put its precision bombing skills on display, that avoided civilian casualties and collateral damage that we have not seen from other parties. We learned soon after that the planning for this offensive had been going on for some time, timed to be kicked off after the recent UN event speeches just before the battle began.
Central Syria had to be cleared first to have safe lines of resupply for the major battles awaiting in the north. The jump off point was from Homs, heading north on highway 5, the city that I was assigned to as an elections monitor in June of 2014, a memorable day in my life as I watched an undefeated people re-elected a war time president. And it was an honor to help with the English translation of the final report of the monitors certifying the election as representing the Syrian people.
The first Jihadi defense line was just north of Homs. The US made TOWS were waiting for the Syrian armor that had to charge straight up the road, and we hear 30 tanks were killed that day. But we have video now from both the Syrian side and the Jihadi’s, some of it from roof tops so airstrikes could be observed. The Russian planes had left the command bunkers in this defense line untouched until attack day so they would be full.
The second surprise came when the Syrians launched a left flank attack split east and west, one force blocking any jihadi reinforcement being able to come down from the hills, and the other taking the jihadi positions west of highway 5 from the rear, making them fight in two directions. The battle was mostly over the first day as the surviving terrorist units pulled back to their next line, the Hama area on highway 5, and in the process learned what is was like to be under bomber and MI-24 helicopter attack while on the roads.
We next saw elements of the Iranian trained Syrian national guard reserves quickly put into the battle doing clearing operations on both sides of highway 5 to clean out any stay behind jihadis that could ambush supply columns. This also allowed the attacking units to keep pushing north in tight formation.
The jihadis began breaking up into smaller units and spreading out to make themselves less visible to air strikes. But this also destroyed their ability to maneuver and support each other while under ground and air attack.
This week we saw some of the first jihadi footage from dead or captured jihadis who had been hoping to record some home movies to be shown to grandchildren someday. They showed poorly trained fanatics with poor radio discipline in total chaos. It almost looked like a contest as to who could recite the most religious slogans while filming bombing strikes and amazing low level MI-24 strikes that sometimes were below the minarets. I had heard they were heavily armored, and they seemed to be totally unconcerned about ground fire.
While the jihadis were filming and chanting slogans the Syrian Army was of course maneuvering around them, to cut them off from retreating north. This prevented a flow of reinforcements flowing to new terrorist defensive lines, ending the long tactic of the Syrian Army pushing them out of an area but not destroying them, so they lived to fight another day.
Anti-aircraft fire was mostly from twin 20mm technical trucks, a dual ground and air defense versatile unit. The videos show them wasting ammo at targets too far away, sometime even shooting through low hanging clouds in frustration where the poor cameraman searches for something to see.
My first big surprise was to see not only SU armored bombers at fairly low altitude but the Flankers, also. I had thought that to avoid MANPADS they would be bombing from above 15,000 feet. Some of the planes could have been Sryian Army ones, and they were definitely making low level bombing and strafing runs. I assume these may have been necessary to for quickly attacking retreating columns while they were exposed.
Some of the most dramatic footage I saw showed some of the planes flying through 20mm tracer fire, and sometimes taking some hits that had no effect. The Russian helicopters seemed to be bulletproof, and there were no MANPAD plumes in any of the footage.
To the amazement of all, the small Russian air wing, along with the remaining Syrian air force was fighting a multi-front air war, continuing the precision bombing targeting to continue degrading the terrorist infrastructure while still flying close air support for the attacking Syrian army columns.
You all have seen the footage of the Russian Navy strike by the small 2000 ton ships that had never been used as long range cruise missile platforms. Water based platforms do not come under the intermediate range missile restrictions and the smaller size allows them to be deployed on some of Russia’s rivers. The 26 missile salvo demonstrated that Russian could support Mideast allies with that firepower, which caught military experts by surprise.
The Syrian counter attack to reclaim their country continues to roll north while clearing operation south of Bagadad has had jihadis surrendering or running back to their paymasters in Jordan. Those in the Damascus suburbs have been doing the same, but where the walk to Jordan is a bit longer.
The National Guard forces are again taking over clearing operations, so the regular army troops can be fed into the major fighting still ahead in the north. The Syrians are attacking on multiple fronts, including a western line of attack designed to cut off Turkish supplies that have long been flowing into the Aleppo area. The Kurds are holding blocking line north of Aleppo and have been air supplied by the US with munitions there. The plan seems leave a possible retreat line east to Raqqa which would become a Turkey shoot for the planes if that happens.
Reinforcement convoys from Raqqa have been attacked and destroyed, even at night. The Russian drones seem to be doing a good job and denying the enemy the ability to move without losing more fighting assets. Syrian forces are within a few miles of the Kuweires airbase, close to breaking the longest siege of the war, two years now.
Turkey will do all it can to derail the current anti-terror progress in Syria, and NATO will be helping. But they would have to do this without getting caught. So far it seems the Gulf States have no such concerns. Little Qatar has floated a call for invading Syria, with Saudi help I would suspect, and the US and Israel, too? That would be a new level of aggression, openly in support of terror forces. Might that be the straw that could break the back politically of the Western-Israel-Gulf State axis of evil?
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, was in Iraq recently trying to hold that flank from using Russian anti-terrorism services, and claims he got a commitment it would not. But on the same day the Iraqi Parliament seemed poised to easily pass a resolution to request help from Moscow.
If that were to happen then Israel and “others” could not continue VIP reinforcement flights to ISIL in Mosul. I think the Russian air force would frown on that especially if the Iraqis gave them that sector to defend.
We could easily have one incident that spins this all out of control, and we know the Israelis are staying up late working on various schemes to do just that. So the dance of death continues, with a happy ending still much in doubt. Our prayers are with the righteous.
Jim W. Dean, managing editor for Veterans Today, producer/host of Heritage TV Atlanta, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”