Archive for the ‘Russia and Islamic State’ category

Russian siege on Raqqa, distant from US troops

May 27, 2017

Russian siege on Raqqa, distant from US troops, DEBKAfile, May 27, 2017

DEBKAfile’s military sources can disclose that Putin has ordered the Russian commanders in Syria to impose an aerial and special forces ground siege on the northern town of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital. This move was designed to match the American initiative on the strategic Syrian-Iraqi border, without a military clash.

Why Raqqa? Firstly, it is in the north, far from the American positions. Second, Russian intelligence had apparently discovered a deal between the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces – SDF – and ISIS which allowed the jihadists safe passage out of their stronghold towards the south.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin acted to strengthen the military alliance he had set up with Iran and Turkey for working together in Syria – as a counterweight to President Donald Trump’s spectacular success in forging a Sunni Arab bloc during his four days in the Middle East.

It was a tough call. Putin’s allies demanded action to prevent a Syrian rebel force, backed by US, Western and Jordanian special forces, from taking control of the Syrian-Iraqi border. The Russian leader had to find a way to satisfy them without getting into a clash of arms with American troops.

On Saturday, May 27, as Trump flew home from his nine-day trip, Putin turned the dilemma over with his two allies, President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and the newly-elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

Three days earlier, the Russian president was put on the spot by Iran’s National Security Adviser Ali Shamkhani, who arrived in Moscow Wednesday, May 24. He slapped down a demand from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for an answer as to how the Russian leader proposed to put a stop to the takeover by American special forces and their allies of the eastern province of Deir ez-Zour and the Al-Tanf crossing at the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle. (See attached map)

Shamkhani warned Putin that without fast action, the Americans would block the routes from Baghdad to Damascus against the passage of Iranian and Russian forces.

The Russian leader took a couple of days to come up with a stratagem, which he revealed to Erdogan during their conversation on Saturday.

DEBKAfile’s military sources can disclose that Putin has ordered the Russian commanders in Syria to impose an aerial and special forces ground siege on the northern town of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital. This move was designed to match the American initiative on the strategic Syrian-Iraqi border, without a military clash.

Why Raqqa? Firstly, it is in the north, far from the American positions. Second, Russian intelligence had apparently discovered a deal between the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces – SDF – and ISIS which allowed the jihadists safe passage out of their stronghold towards the south.

The Russian siege on Raqqa was therefore a move against the US-backed SDF and the Kurds, without getting entangled in a direct showdown with the US forces in the South: Putin had installed a Russian-backed foothold in northern Syria to counter the US-led front in the south.

Immediately after the Putin-Erdogan phone call, a Russian military source in Moscow released this story: “Russian intelligence drones have set up a perimeter around the city ([Raqqa] to monitor possible terrorist escape routes, with combat aircraft and special forces units engaged in preventing militants’ escape.” The report went on to warn that any attempts by ISIS fighters to leave the town “will be squashed.”

Putin’s maneuver in Syria was designed to achieve three goals:

1. To counterbalance the America-led takeover of the Syrian-Iraqi border in the south, the Russians would assert control of the northern section of that same border.

2.  To showcase the Russian army as the great champions fighting the Islamic State terrorists, compared with the American troops and their allies who had turned aside from this mission, although President Trump had made it the centerpiece of his nine-day trip.

Putin was careful not to name his objective as the conquest of Raqqa, but only a siege operation.

3. To hit US allies, such as the Syrian Kurds in the north, without tangling with the Americans in combat.

Russian anti-ISIS war from Syria to Caucasus

July 12, 2016

Russian anti-ISIS war from Syria to Caucasus, DEBKAfile, July 12, 2016

Alexander-Dvornikov-C-in-C-Russian-Syrian-Task-Force

Unimpressed by President Barack Obama’s optimistic assertions about ISIS’ loss of territory and weakening state, the Kremlin judges the counter-terror war to be just beginning. Russian intelligence has found the group to be in full fighting mode and setting up an army of suicide bombers, each team numbering some 20-15 terrorists, ready for strikes in Europe, including Russia, and the Middle East.

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In a supreme effort to prevent ISIS suicide units from reaching Russia from Syria, Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s
Defense Minister, has promoted the Russian commander in Syria, Colonel-General Alexander Dvornikov. to an expanded command as head of the South Russia military district. This district covers Russian forces including naval units in the Black and Caspian Seas, the Fourth Air Force Defense Army and Russian bases in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Armenia.  Gen. Dvornikov will also command tens of ground force divisions, including paratroopers, marines and special coastal defense units.

The fact that the Russian Defense Ministry emphasizes in its announcement that “The decision about the appointment of a new commander of the Syrian operation is pending,” indicates that General Dvornikov will remain in charge of Russian forces in Syria from his new Black Sea HQ. His deputy, Gen.-Lt. Alexander Zhuravlyev, will continue to serve under him in the Syrian arena.

Moscow’s realignment of its military command is taken by DEBKAfile’s military and counter terrorism sources as a step towards becoming the first world power outside the Middle East to recognize and address the trans-frontier, global character of the Islamic peril, a lesson drawn from ISIS suicide attacks in Paris, Brussels, the US, Tunisia Egypt and Turkey

Unimpressed by President Barack Obama’s optimistic assertions about ISIS’ loss of territory and weakening state, the Kremlin judges the counter-terror war to be just beginning. Russian intelligence has found the group to be in full fighting mode and setting up an army of suicide bombers, each team numbering some 20-15 terrorists, ready for strikes in Europe, including Russia, and the Middle East.

This is borne out by the information released in Ankara by Turkish intelligence sources on July 11, showing that since the bombing in Istanbul airport, on June 28, in which 42 people were killed, ISIS has discontinued its passageway through Turkey for suicide terrorists trained in Syria to reach Europe. They are now smuggling terrorists across Azerbaijan, Georgia and Cyprus.

This Turkish announcement has serious implications:

First, that the ISIS’ use of Azerbaijan and Georgia as way stations for its suicide squads points to its presence on the Black Sea coast right up to Russia’s frontier. This region has now passed to the command of  Gen. Dvornikov..

Second, that Turkish intelligence can confirm Russian information about large squads of suicide terrorists gearing up for multiple attacks, some of which are already on-site of their targets, with back-up teams in case the first misses out.

The impending massive invasion of suicide terrorists to Europe and the Middle East was, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, an important item on the agenda of the recent meeting between Yossi Cohen, head of the Israeli Mossad, and Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov, head of the Russian SVR, that took place on July 1, at the Russian organization’s Yasenevo HQ outside Moscow.