Former CIA Station Chief In Moscow: ‘Brennan And Clapper Are Doing Putin’s Bidding’

A former CIA station chief is worried that Brennan and Clapper are doing Putin’s bidding when they sound off about their Russia collusion theories.

The Federalist, by Bre Payton, Aug. 2, 2018:

A former CIA station chief in Moscow is worried that top former intelligence agency officials John Brennan and James Clapper are doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding, when they sound off about their Russia collusion theories without verifying the facts.

The former CIA director and former director of National Intelligence have both been fanning the flames on the notion that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials in order to steal the election away from Hillary Clinton on cable TV and in various media interviews. As a result, the White House threatened to revoke security clearances from these men and a few others for misusing their access to top secret documents to promote their own agenda.

Former CIA case officer Daniel Hoffman, who was stationed in Moscow, told Real Clear Investigates that Brennan and Clapper are doing Putin’s bidding when they speculate without facts.

“In Brennan’s case that Putin could blackmail Trump, and in Clapper’s that the Kremlin’s interference swung the election to Trump,” Hoffman said. “Senior intelligence officers should know we speculate at our own peril.”

“While they get a favorable response from the ‘Amen’ chorus of Trump opponents, we should also consider the risk they are taking of feeding Trump’s speculation they were partisan officials who sought to do him harm,” he said.

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Former CIA chief of station Daniel Hoffman on how Russia has undermined Americans’ faith in the U.S. political system.

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Also see:

Trump-Putin call focuses on Syria, security zones

DEBKAfile, May 2, 2017:

One of the most consequential exchanges on the disposition of Syria’s border lands with Israel and Jordan – and the future of the Syrian conflict at large – took place between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday, May 2. The call took place when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting Putin at his Black Sea residence in Sochi.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that the two presidents focused strongly on an effort to agree on how de-escalate the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year and bring it to an end. The Russian leader proposed drawing armistice lines between the warring sides under the guarantee of a special Russian military mechanism. The Americans have not released any ideas, but they are believed to be contemplating establishing safety zones barred to the Syrian air force. One of those zones would be marked out in the south on Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, the Iranian military-political command and Hizballah are resisting US feelers for the introduction of these safe zones, regarding the plan as a ploy hatched by the Saudis, Israelis and Jordanians to take control of South Syria by engaging local Syrian rebel groups as their vehicle. Damascus, Tehran and Beirut believe that if they allow the scheme to go forward without resistance, it will be the start of similar off-limits enclaves in other parts of Syria, and the country will quickly fall apart into self-ruling segments.

That is why late last month, Syrian army units, the Shiite militias under Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers’ command and Hizballah combined their resources to push against the local Syrian rebels of the South in the regions of the borders with Israel and Jordan.
It is doubtful whether Trump and Putin were able to work out something tangible in their first phone conversation since the US fired Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Syrian Shayrat air base on April 7. The Russian president used the shock of that event to cultivate closer ties with the Syrian ruler and strengthen his missile defenses, in case of an American repeat attack or Israeli air strikes on military targets in Syria.
At the same time, Putin becamed more careful about infringing on parts of Syria deemed to be under American influence, especially the Kurdish enclaves.
The US president was also careful not to direct personal attacks on Putin or criticize Russia’s military involvement in Syria, merely expressing the hope that at some point the two powers could reach an understanding to end the vicious conflict.
When reporters in Sochi asked the Russian president if he thought he could sell his plan to Assad, he replied: “A ceasefire is the first priority and cooperation with Washington is critical.”

At the same time, Russia operates in tandem with Turkey and Iran and was trying to “create the conditions for political cooperation on all sides,” he said.

Clearly, Putin was making the point that, just as the US deals with the Syrian issue in alignment with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, Russia coordinates its actions with Iran and Turkey. Since both presidents are similarly weighed down by their allies, the road to a consensus between Washington and Moscow is destined to be long with many convolutions. Therefore, the tension on the Israeli and Jordanian borders of southern Syria will continue to escalate before it abates.

The Unsolved Mystery Behind the Act of Terror That Brought Putin to Power

vladimir-putin-1999-moscow-apartment-bombing-gennNational Review, by David Satter,  August 17, 2016:

I believe that Vladimir Putin came to power as the result of an act of terror committed against his own people. The evidence is overwhelming that the apartment-house bombings in 1999 in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk, which provided a pretext for the second Chechen war and catapulted Putin into the presidency, were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Yet, to this day, an indifferent world has made little attempt to grasp the significance of what was the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag.

I have been trying to call attention to the facts behind the bombings since 1999. I consider this a moral obligation, because ignoring the fact that a man in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal came to power through an act of terror is highly dangerous in itself.

Russian human-rights defenders Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, and Alexander Litvinenko also worked to shed light on the apartment bombings. But all of them were murdered between 2003 and 2006. By 2007, when I testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the bombings, I was the only person publicly accusing the regime of responsibility who had not been killed.

The bombings terrorized Russia. The Russian authorities blamed Chechen rebels and thereby galvanized popular support for a new war in Chechnya. President Boris Yeltsin and his entourage were thoroughly hated for their role in the pillaging of the country. Putin, the head of the FSB, had just been named Yeltsin’s prime minister and achieved overnight popularity by vowing revenge against those who had murdered innocent civilians. He assumed direction of the war and, on the strength of initial successes, was elected president easily.

Almost from the start, however, there were doubts about the provenance of the bombings, which could not have been better calculated to rescue the fortunes of Yeltsin and his entourage. Suspicions deepened when a fifth bomb was discovered in the basement of a building in Ryazan, a city southeast of Moscow, and those who had placed it turned out to be not Chechen terrorists but agents of the FSB. After these agents were arrested by local police, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, said that the bomb had been a fake and that it had been planted in Ryazan as part of a training exercise. The bomb, however, tested positive for hexogen, the explosive used in the four successful apartment bombings. An investigation of the Ryazan incident was published in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and the public’s misgivings grew so widespread that the FSB agreed to a televised meeting between its top officials and residents of the affected building. The FSB in this way tried to demonstrate its openness, but the meeting was a disaster: It left the overwhelming impression that the incident in Ryazan was a failed political provocation.

Three days after the broadcast, Putin was elected. Attention to the Ryazan incident faded, and it began to appear that the bombings would become just the latest in the long list of Russia’s unsolved crimes.

In April 2000, a week after Putin’s election, I decided to go to Ryazan. The residents of 14–16 Novoselov Street, where the bomb had been planted, were suffering from heart problems and depression, and their children were afraid to go to sleep at night. Those I met were completely convinced that the incident had not been a training exercise. “Who can imagine such a thing?” asked Vladimir Vasiliev, whose initial reports of suspicious activity had led to the arrest of the FSB agents. “But the claim that it was a test makes no sense. Does it make sense to test people for vigilance at a time when the whole country is in a state of panic?”

Read more

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Secure Freedom Radio with Frank Gaffney, Aug. 18, 2016:

DAVID SATTER, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, author of “The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin”:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

  • Mystery surrounding the apartment bombings Putin blamed on Chechen militants
  • Claim that Ukrainian forces attacked across the Crimean border
  • Advice for the next Commander in Chief on US/Russia policy
  • Putin’s actions in the Middle East designed to promote Russian nationalism

Also see:

WikiLeaks Game Can Turn Kremlin Fortress Into Glass House

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on August 11, 2016. (ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on August 11, 2016. (ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

Forbes, by J. Michael Waller, Aug. 16, 2016: (h/t Kyle Shideler)

For the first time since the 1950s, Russian subversion of the American political process has become a presidential campaign issue.

The Kremlin’s latest act of espionage-driven propaganda–document dump of Democratic National Committee emails via WikiLeaks–achieved its desired effect of immediate politicization. We should step back to learn two lessons, and creatively fight back.

The first lesson

Lesson one: Moscow’s subversion of American democracy is nothing new. The Soviet KGB and its successor entities have picked favorites in the past, and at crucial points in history, some American politicians and officials wittingly or unwittingly collaborated. One need only look at the Soviet penetration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration through controlled agents of influence. FBI reports and congressional hearings at the time, Communist defectors and turncoat Soviet intelligence officers, and more recent revelations from Soviet archives and the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ decrypted Venona transcripts prove this beyond any doubt.

Present-day political figures also colluded with the Soviets against their own country. A shining example is Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In the 1980s, after honeymooning in the USSR, Sanders collaborated with the U.S. section of the World Peace Council, a major Soviet front organization that was working to push America to disarm unilaterally and surrender allies to Soviet aggression.

In ways far more damaging than Sanders’ fringe activism, distinguished members of the Clinton political clan benefited from relations with the KGB. The two primary Russia hands for Bill Clinton’s administration owed their political or professional fortunes to Soviet agents. The first was vice president Al Gore, whose father, also a senator, benefited greatly from his special relationship with Soviet agent Armand Hammer in a way that arguably groomed the younger Gore to lead Clinton’s Russia team. The second was Bill Clinton’s roommate at Oxford, Strobe Talbott, who as a cub reporter for Time magazine in Moscow, received the break of his life from Victor Louis, a KGB agent whose job was to recruit rising star journalists. We don’t know whether Talbott allowed the KGB to compromise him, but when asked about it during his Senate confirmation hearing to become deputy secretary of state in 1994, Talbott declined to answer.

Lesson two

The second lesson from the DNC WikiLeaks affair is that history shows that when American leaders resist and make Moscow pay a price, the Kremlin backs off. Strategic-minded leaders, as President Ronald Reagan proved, can even turn tables on the perpetrators and defeat them.

Which is why we should be focusing, not on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but on the current commander-in-chief. Barack Obama has done nothing to discourage Russian misbehavior that led to the WikiLeaks dump. His passivity arguably encouraged it. He now has the pretext to do something.

Obama is the only person on earth who can respond in-kind to the Putin regime’s egregious intervention in the American democratic process. Putin and his inner circle are vulnerable to exposure of their own shameful actions, habits, actions and fetishes. In the electronic age, the Kremlin fortress has become a glass house.

Next steps

For starters, Obama should order the intelligence community to compile properly-sanitized dumps of emails and social media among select targets in Putin’s inner circle. The personal electronic communications should expose the widely-suspected but seldom proven details of the staggering corruption at the top of the Russian gangster state, including Putin’s family members and loyalists. Judiciously selected, the exposures will show Putin and others that we, too, can play hardball.

If disciplined enough, the U.S. can outplay the Putin-WikiLeaks team. Russia’s political system is far less resilient than ours. The increasingly-centralized yet divided Russian Federation is potentially much more fragile and vulnerable to public exposure of the colossal scale of greed and organized criminal behavior of its national leadership.

And then there are national cultural norms that no present Russian leader could politically survive once the glass of invincibility is electronically shattered. Above almost all else, Putin nurses a deep-seated hostility to male homosexuality. Putin-centric political elites could never endure the humiliation and ridicule following a skillful intelligence dump of their private emails, text messages, social media posts, photos and Web browser histories.

No doubt Putin and his inner circle anticipated a cost-free scheme to embarrass Hillary Clinton and, by extension, Obama. If that is the case, all Americans who strive for political authority are wearing an electronic “kick me” sign on their backs. They should expect Russia and other powers like China to be scooping up and storing their electronic communication for future use. We can’t allow that to continue.

For the sake of America’s democratic society, Obama must strike back hard at Putin and his inner circle. Now.

Mr. Waller is a founding editorial board member of NATO’s Defence Strategic Communications journal. His books include “Secret Empire: The KGB In Russia Today.”

Hillary’s secret ties to Putin will undermine American interests

usa russian flags

Just how far back does the Clinton-Kremlin connection go? It’s worth investigating. 

Conservative Review, by Benjamin Weingarten, Aug. 14, 2016:

Russia’s malignant influence on American foreign policy is finally becoming a relevant issue in the 2016 presidential election, and that is definitely a positive development. Based upon their actions and associations, neither candidate has shown a sufficient understanding of — or worse, they have ignored — the nature of the Russian regime and its threat to America’s national interest. These deficiencies ought to be of grave concern to the American people.

As the Government Accountability Institute lays out in a recent report, Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia while serving as secretary of State appear to represent the worst kind of cronyism: sacrificing America’s national interest for her own and Russia’s benefit. As the Executive Summary of the report explains:

  • A major technology transfer component of the Russian reset overseen by Hillary Clinton substantially enhanced the Russian military’s technological capabilities, according to both the FBI and the U.S. Army.
  • Russian government officials and American corporations participated in the technology transfer project overseen by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that funnelled (sic) tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

The report also notes that Hillary’s presidential campaign chairman, Tony Podesta, had dubious ties with the Russian regime:

  • A Putin-connected Russian government fund transferred $35 million to a small company with Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta on its executive board, which included senior Russian officials.
  • John Podesta failed to reveal, as required by law on his federal financial disclosures, his membership on the board of this offshore company.
  • Podesta also headed up a think tank which wrote favorably about the Russian reset while apparently receiving millions from Kremlin-linked Russian oligarchs via an offshore LLC.

Building upon Peter Schweizer’s work in his book, “Clinton Cash,” The New York Times revealed another alleged quid pro quo detrimental to America’s national interest — but again, benefitting Hillary and Russia — with the infamous Uranium One deal.

Recall that the Russians took control of Uranium One and thus one-fifth of all U.S. uranium production capacity through three separate transactions between 2009 and 2013. Given the strategic importance of uranium, authorizing Russian control required the approval of various government agencies, including Hillary’s State Department.

Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation received contributions totaling more than $100 million from Uranium One’s chairman and several of its shareholders in addition to those with ties to Uranium One or UrAsia, which had originally acquired Uranium One’s valuable Kazakh mine assets. Secretary Clinton also received $500,000 for a speech she gave at Renaissance Capital — a Kremlin-linked investment bank, which had recommended purchasing Uranium One stock soon after the Russians announced their intent to acquire a majority stake in the company.

Just how far back does the Clinton-Kremlin connection go? It’s worth investigating.

Concerning Donald Trump, even if we were gracious and excused his praise of Vladimir Putin as mere rhetoric (intended as a dig at Barack Obama and by extension Hillary), or just “Trump being Trump,” his substantive actions and associations are more troubling.

Even though the Trump campaign contributed little to the 2016 Republican Party platform changes, despite protestations to the contrary it did intervene regarding language about American support for Ukraine against Russian aggression. Trump officials reportedly watered down a portion of the platform calling for GOP support of “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainians in the face of Russian intervention, replacing the phrase with the softer provision, “appropriate assistance.”

Previously, Trump wavered on whether the U.S. would fulfill its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obligations to defend Baltic nations against Russian aggression, giving a standoffish response to The New York Times that amounted to the following: I would not tell Vladimir Putin what we would do in the event of Russian intervention in the Baltics, but we cannot ignore the fact that irrespective of our own treaty obligations, NATO members must fulfill their obligations in terms of funding NATO.

Again, we could charitably chalk this up to mere rhetoric, consistent with Trump’s narrative on globalism and deal-making. By Trump’s logic, NATO is just another international deal in which America has gotten ripped off by freeloader nations, and Trump will be the only negotiator that drives a hard enough bargain to fix the deal — including threats to not fulfill its terms.

Leaving aside the not-so-small issue of honoring treaties, the central problem here is that NATO’s purpose is, in large part, to counter Russia. And Trump’s advisors have significant ties to that nation, casting a pall over everything Trump says and does relating to it.

Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has done substantial work for Viktor Yanukovych — former president of Ukraine and backed by Putin. That Yanukovych pulled Ukraine closer into Putin’s orbit is well-documented. Manafort has also partaken in business dealings with oligarchs loyal to Putin.

Trump’s advisor on Russia, Carter Page, is a big investor in Gazprom, an energy company and one of the crown jewels of Putin’s kleptocracy. Page has railed against U.S. foreign policy towards Russia with all manner of calumnies — notably at times while in Russia — and called for the easing of sanctions against Russia that affected Gazprom and other companies.

Trump’s personal and professional ties to Russia, though worthy of scrutiny, raise fewer red flags than those of Hillary.

What does Russia itself actually want out of the 2016 presidential election?

Read more

Ben Weingarten is Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and publication services firm. A graduate of Columbia University, he regularly contributes to publications such as City Journal, The Federalist, Newsmax and PJ Media on national security/defense, economics and politics. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Israel’s let-down: Putin-Erdogan hook-up with Iran

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DEBKAfile Exclusive Report, August 9, 2016:

The talks between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Reccep Erdogen in St. Petersburg scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9, are causing trepidation among Israel’s policy-makers and military leaders. Their summit takes place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, concluding nine months of hostility between the two capitals that was sparked by Turkish jets shooting down a Russian SU-24 warplane over the Syrian border on Nov. 24, 2015.

The feud was put to rest on July 17 – two days after Erdogan suppressed the attempted military coup against his rule. The Turkish ruler decided there and then to exploit the episode to expand his strength and use it not only for a massive settling of accounts with his critics, but also as a springboard for parlaying his reconciliation with Moscow for a strategic pact with Russia.

In Israel, the worry is that while turning his back on the United States and NATO, Eerdogan will go all the way to bond with Russia to which Iran is also attached as a partner. Indeed, Erdogan has scheduled a trip to Tehran and a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani a few days after his talks with Putin.
The Turkish president’s latest moves look like spawning another new Middle East bloc that would consist of Turkey, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and indirectly the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist group.

This prospect would upend Israel’s key policies for Turkey and Syria.
The Israeli détente with Ankara in recent months hinged on Turkey’s continuing to maintain its close military and intelligence ties with the United States and its integration in an anti-Iran Sunni alliance in partnership with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

But the Putin-Erdogan meeting Tuesday threatens to throw American, Israeli and moderate Arab rulers’ plans to the four winds. Turkey appears to have opted to line up with a Russian-Shiite front led by Tehran in preference to an anti-Iran Sunni alliance.
Therefore, the expanded military and intelligence cooperation which the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement was to have heralded will be low key at best for two reasons:

1. Israel will beware of sharing its military technology with Turkey lest it find its way to Iran. During the talks with Ankara for patching up their quarrel Israel was constantly on the lookout for indications that Turkey was prepared to break off its ties with Iran.

2. For the sake of keeping Iran and Hizballah away from its borders, Israel entered into arrangements with Russia, some of them never published, at the start of Moscow’s military intervention in Syria last September. Those arrangements included coordination of their air force operations over Syria.

Now, Israel finds itself suddenly up against a Russian-Turkish partnership aimed at strengthening Iranian domination of Syria – the exact reverse of the Netanyahu government’s objective in resolving its dispute with Ankara and forging deals with Moscow.

Also see:

Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Begins to Stall-What Now?

  • Putin Gives Assad mid-Nov. deadline for results with Aleppo offensive and that the Russian airstrikes weren’t “indefinite.”
  • Syrian Rebels gaining some ground and pro-Assad forces suffering supply shortages and taking casualties – most notably IRGC commander Hamedani causing low morale.
  • Lack of coordination and competition between IRGC-Qods Force, Hezbollah, SAA and Russian Army causing problems
  • In spite of ops in Ukraine and Syria causing logistical strain on Russia, no sign of opening another air base.
  • Russia’s plan to take Aleppo, forcing a negotiated settlement and then turning attention to hitting ISIS is not going well and the Sinai plane bombing has just made everything more complicated.
  • Russian propaganda aside, can you say “Quagmire”?

The ISIS Study Group, Nov. 7, 2015:

In late-OCT Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a surprise visit to Moscow. Although it was called a “working visit” and the Assad regime did confirm three meetings were held, most people in the international press were caught up with this being Assad’s first visit in a few years. However, something rather important occurred during this visit – Vlad put Assad on notice. Assad was informed by Vlad that he’s expecting results from the Aleppo offensive by mid-NOV since he has Russian military support. That’s mid-NOV as in starting next week. He also told Assad that the Russian airstrikes weren’t “indefinite.”

Syria’s Assad in surprise visit to Moscow
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/10/syria-assad-met-russia-putin-moscow-151021064340109.html

Source: ZB

Source: ZB

Indeed this is a bit of a departure from what Vlad told Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia (“No End in Sight in Fighting on the Arabian Peninsula Front”), but we see it as more of our favorite KGB officer beginning to feel a greater sense of urgency. Basil al-Asad Airbase is operating at full capacity and our sources in Syria have informed us that there are no plans to open up other airbases to expand Russia’s logistical footprint – which is going to come back to haunt them. The ongoing offensive in Aleppo that we discussed in “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention” has become the new priority for the pro-regime forces looking for a “big win.” The problem with this is it means resources and personnel involved in the operations occurring in Northwest Syria are being redirected. Despite the Russian military support and diverting of resources and personnel to the Aleppo front, the offensive has stalled.

No End in Sight in Fighting on the Arabian Peninsula Front
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8896

On Thursday the al-Qaida-flavored Jund al-Aqsa seized control of the Hama Province town of Morek. That town was the last SAA garrison along the main highway between Aleppo and Hama. This was a particularly important event since the anti-Assad factions now have control of a major line of communication from which reinforcements and supplies can be sent to support operations in Idlib and Aleppo. We’ve been covering this multi-pronged pro-regime offensive to retake Aleppo, Idlib, and Russia’s involvement in it from the start (“Russia Supports New Syrian Offensive and Begins Prepping For Russian Ground OPs” and “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention”). In those articles we discussed the first indicators of things not exactly going as well as Russian propagandists are spinning them out to be. Although its true that pro-regime forces retook multiple villages South of Aleppo, they sustained heavy losses in doing so.

Syria jihadists capture regime town along vital road
http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rebels-seize-key-regime-town-hama-aleppo-095717057.html

Russia Supports New Syrian Offensive and Begins Prepping For Russian Ground OPs
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8669

Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8778

BG Hamedani in his best pic yet Source: The ISIS Study Group

BG Hamedani in his best pic yet
Source: The ISIS Study Group

The IRGC continues to play a large role on the ground on the Aleppo front, although they haven’t been able to recover (yet) from the death of IRGC BG Hossein Hamedani (Reference – “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention”). The combined pro-regime forces were already having problems coordinating/prioritizing lines of effort, but BG Hamedani’s death made the situation worse. As of this writing the vast majority of the pro-regime forces are suffering from low-morale and supply shortages that are compounded by that failure to prioritize and coordinate operations – which is why the current Aleppo campaign is stalling. Such problems have watered down all the airstrikes and fire support, so it really shouldn’t surprise anybody that the ground forces are having a hard time seizing and holding territory.

A big indicator of these problems in coordination operations can be seen in the anti-Assad factions’ adapting to the Russian airstrikes that aren’t necessarily being reported up by the guys on the ground. The reason has more to do with personal pride and an overall pissing contest between the officers of the IRGC-Qods Force, Hezbollah, SAA and Russian Army. The establishment of joint-coordination centers have helped some, but thus far it appears to have been the most successful in better stream-lining logistical operations. The reason for the lackluster improvement has to do with the Russian military continuing to maintain their own C2 separate from the SAA, IRGC and Hezbollah. The Russians manage sorties and use embedded LNOs to process strike requests – which chews up a lot of time that the guys on the ground probably don’t have the luxury of wasting. As one would guess, this has only led to increased tensions between the Russians and the Qods Force – who don’t believe they need Vlad’s boys beat down the anti-Assad factions (Gee, that sure looks like a great opportunity for some IO messaging there, CENTCOM – HINT, HINT).

al-Nusra fighters in the Southern part of Aleppo Source: al-Nusra Media Office

al-Nusra fighters in the Southern part of Aleppo
Source: al-Nusra Media Office

The Islamic State (IS) had severed some of the primary supply lines (such as the Khanaser Road) linking support hubs to the Aleppo front. Although the Assad regime is trumpeting its “victory” in regaining control of the Khanaser Road, they had to reallocate units to reopen the line of communication (LOC) just to sustain the offensive. Unfortunately, that also meant losing considerable momentum in other, more critical areas on the front. Assad’s forces were stretched even further when they were forced to eject IS from an oilfield near Hama. Another issue the SAA is running into is the increasing reliance on militias such as the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) as a result of manpower shortages. The problem with relying on the militias is that they’re very hit or miss. Not all of the militias are as capable as Hezbollah, Badr Organization, Kitaib Hezbollah (KH) or Asaib al-Haq (AAH). As a result, the Russian ground force mix of Spetsnaz and conventional troops are seeing more action. Most of their operations (the conventional guys anyways) are centered around convoy security in the Ghab Valley, although their Naval Infantry guys are conducting more small-unit operations at the company-level and lower. The Spetsnaz continue to due their counter-terror raids in conjunction with the Qods Force, although neither side appears to be particularly thrilled with having to “share” responsibilities. Those Russian ground troops have already sustained 10 KIA and another 24 WIA (again, a great opportunity for an IO campaign for the US to regain the initiative – assuming anybody in the Pentagon still has their balls).

Syrian Government Forces Regain Key Aleppo Supply Route
http://www.wsj.com/articles/syrian-government-forces-regain-key-aleppo-supply-rout-1446740694

Syrian Regime Makes Gains For Aleppo Supply Lines, Uniting ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Syrian Rebels
http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-regime-makes-gains-aleppo-supply-lines-uniting-isis-jabhat-al-nusra-syrian-2165308

Syrian army, allied Hezbollah militia expel ISIS from key oilfield near Hama
http://aranews.net/2015/11/syrian-army-allied-hezbollah-militia-expel-isis-from-key-oilfield-near-hama/

Hollow Victory: The pro-regime forces threw a great deal of time and personnel – their most precious resource – at retaking this piece of real estate Source: George Ourfalian (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Hollow Victory: The pro-regime forces threw a great deal of time and personnel – their most precious resource – at retaking this piece of real estate
Source: George Ourfalian (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

The big problem Vlad is going to face if this war extends beyond 6 months (which we don’t see any end in the foreseeable future) is the strain on the Russian military’s logisitical capabilities. Sure, the talking heads in the media point to Russia’s vast numbers, but what they fail to realize is that Russia’s military is a conscript force – and one that doesn’t have the highest morale. They also overlook the fact that despite the Russian military’s size, they have a hard time providing logistical support to it on campaigns. Russia was beginning to struggle with providing support to the limited presence it has in Ukraine, so what do you think is going to happen in Syria, or Iraq for that matter (should they expand there)? The biggest sign of strain to Russia’s airlift capabilities will be felt in the ordnance-area, in a few months we’ll know why the airstrikes will begin to decline. This is why we find Russia’s decision not to open up another airbase to alleviate the strain placed on Basil al-Assad Airbase (which is currently operating at full capacity) so interesting. The implied task, therefore, would be to use more sealift transport. The problem with that is the Russian Naval base in Tartus may not have the infrastructure to expand that capability. Ultimately, this will lead to a lag in support operations.

So what’s next? With all the resources being thrown into this multi-pronged Syrian offensive with so little in results, Vlad is going to be forced to either invest even more in the regional war by expanding Russia’s military intervention, or lower the bar of what constitutes “success.” Vlad’s original plan was to push for a “big win” in Aleppo to use as a means of forcing the so-called “moderates” into a negotiated settlement on terms favorable to Assad. Once that happens, the combined pro-regime forces would turn their complete attention to IS. However, the bombing of a Russian airliner in Sinai changed all that (Check out “Sinai Plane Crash Update” and “Amplifying Details on the Sinai Plane Bombing and the Egypt-Libya Nexus” for more details). If anything, Vlad almost has to expand his military’s involvement in Syria if nothing else but to continue to push the narrative that he’s the “ironman” of the international community – and the “anti-Obama.” Thing is, by getting more involved in this regional war, Vlad will run the risk of falling into the same trap that his predecessors did in Afghanistan. Vlad may fill the leadership void left by the US government, but all its going to do is increase recruitment to Baghdadi’s cause. Jihadists may hate America, but they have a very special hatred for Russians. As much as the Rand Paul fanboys are excited about the possibility of somebody else carrying the load, region will become much more unstable because of it. This is going to affect both the West and the Russians. Keep in mind that although Russia prefers a more draconian strategy of laying waste to entire populations, that philosophy didn’t particularly work out in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Ingushtia or Dagestan. So welcome to the meat-grinder Vlad – sucks, don’t it?

Sinai Plane Crash Update
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9184

Amplifying Details on the Sinai Plane Bombing and the Egypt-Libya Nexus
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9230

Source: The ISIS Study Group

Source: The ISIS Study Group

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