Originally appeared at Moon of Alabama
The Syrian Arab Army launched a significant new offensive in north Aleppo today. It is another move in the battlefield negotiations that will decide this war.
The likely objective of the offensive is the creation of a corridor from north-west Aleppo to the besieged towns of Nubol and AlZaraa. The towns are under siege from Jahat al Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and Ahrar al-Sham and are regularly shelled. Such a corridor would also cut through the insurgents main supply route from south-west of Aleppo to Turkey.
The offense has been in preparation for some time and runs in parallel (vid) with other operations in Latakia near the Turkish border, east of Aleppo and in the south.
To protect against any Turkish adventure Russia beefed up the available air power. Four brand new Russian Su-35S multi-role fighters arrived in Syria. Russia would like to demonstrate their capabilities.
Nine Syrian Mig-29 fighters have been upgraded (recom. reading) with new active electronically scanned (AESA) radars and new missiles. They now fly protective cover for Russian and Syrian ground attack fighters and helicopters against Turkish air interdiction.
Syrian T-72 tanks have been upgraded with new defense measures against U.S. anti-tank weapons.
Throughout the last weeks several thousand newly trained troops arrived in the government held north Aleppo industrial zone. These have now launched the fresh attack in the north western direction (red arrows on the map) and already captured several villages.
The attack was prepared by massive ground attack airstrikes which hit the frontline positions of the foreign supported insurgents’ as well as their ammunition transports (vid). (Interestingly the destroyed convoy was on a narrow, small road. That proves that major supply roads are no longer available or safe for the insurgents.)
The attack today forestalled planned counterattacks by various insurgent groups and Jabhat al-Nusra. The attacked insurgent units issued urgent requests for reinforcements.
There have been significant skirmishes between Turkey and Syria/Russia in the last days. Turkey claimed that Russian jets intruded its airspace which the Russians denied. It is quite possible that small intrusion happen as the Russian and Syrian ground attack jets bombard insurgents near the Turkish border in Latakia. But the Turks now have to watch out for ready-to-shoot Russian and Syrian air superiority fighters who only wait for a chance to avenge the earlier Turkish ambush of a Russian plane.
Today Turkish artillery fired (vid) against Syrian army positions in Latakia. The 1998 Turkish-Syrian Adana agreement which provided for largely demilitarized Syrian side of the border up to a depth of fifteen kilometer is clearly no longer in effect. Syrian artillery is active against insurgent groups which hide in “refugee camps” near the border. The Turks claim that these are ethnic Turkmen civilians but the video showing the damage in such a camp was released(vid) with the insignia of Jabhat al-Nusra. Some other fighters in the area are Turks from the fascist MHP party.
When the Syrian army and its supporters have cleared the Latakia area near Turkey Russia will install a new far reaching radar and a listening post on one of its hilltops. Such a station will allow the observance of all air and sea movements for hundreds of kilometers into Turkey. It will be part of the price Turkey and NATO have to pay for the ambush of the Russian plane.
Some people think that Turkey would invade Syria if the Kurds move further into the supply corridor north east of Aleppo the Islamic State uses for its dealing with Turkey. I very much doubt such a move as any intrusion into Syria would risk open war with Russia. The Turkish army would only launch that war under a explicit, written order. NATO would not support such a move and Erdogan alone would carry the full responsibility. Most Turkish people are well aware of the economic losses that follow Erdogan’s aggressive policies and would likely not support such a hopeless adventure.
Erdogan’s grandstanding and interference is no longer effective. The current UN talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and a Saudi supported group of the radical insurgents are a side show. The real negotiations are on the battlefield and there the Syrian government and its supporters continue to improve their already superior position.