Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts

April 17, 2022

Is this what World War between nuclear powers looks like?

    Sunday, April 17, 2022   No comments

On this platform, the 2011 war in Syria was characterized as a proxy war before it became obvious that it was so. Here, too, the war in Ukraine was characterized as a war between nuclear powers who cannot have direct military confrontation because of the danger of nuclear weapons that can be deployed.

Now, with the British head of government visiting Kyiv and promising Ukraine more military aid, and with US and most NATO members supplying Ukraine with weapons that are beyond the defensive ones, it is clear that this war is the closest to a war between nuclear powered actors. It is another proxy war but one of a higher level with much more dangerous consequences. It is so because Russia is directly involved in a confrontation with a country that sees itself more like a member of the EU and NATO even if it is not so. Perhaps this is the calculus of Ukrainian leaders: if, with the help of NATA and the EU, Ukraine fights Russia to a standstill or even defeats Russian forces on the ground, Ukraine would have earned its place in the alliance and in the union at the same time. Perhaps this is the only option left for Ukraine now, short of agreeing to the terms of peace proposed by Russia.

The sinking of the Russian warship in the Black Sea, the Russian losses near Kiyv, and the flow of more weapons to Ukraine could force Russia to adopt a new strategy; one that is still in line with its strategic goals but less risky in terms of human and hardware losses. This means that Russia may opt to control the Donbas region and all of the southern border and sit back and use its air force and long-range missiles to strike in the rest of the country. Such strategy will render the defensive posture adopted by the Ukrainian forces useless because their will be no close contact combat to use such weapons.

Should Russia adopts this war from distance strategy, first, it will rely on the help of the Chechen Muslim fighters to hold new ground and support the armed forces of the autonomous republics in the Donbas region. Second, and most importantly, it will have to rely heavily on its military planes and long-distance missile systems for monitoring, locating, and striking targets in Ukraine using assets in Russian land or taking off from Russian territories. So how able and ready is the Russia military air force for carrying out such plan?

Russian military aircraft

According to what Russian President Vladimir Putin announced, controlling all of the Ukrainian geography is not one of the objectives of the operation, and that is why we see the greater emphasis on the use of the air force. Here are the highlights of the Russian Air Force:

The Russian army owns more than 4,000 warplanes, including fighters, bombers and helicopters, including 8 of the most dangerous fighters in the world.

The Tu-160: the queen of strategic bombers

This is the first aircraft in the world equipped with reversible launch missiles, which can intercept targets behind them, especially missiles launched to target them.

This aircraft has a tail-mounted radar, which makes it capable of rear sighting, which is the most appropriate because it is a low-maneuvering aircraft.

  • The Tu-160 can change its direction of flight by 180 degrees very quickly.
  • It can cover 14,000 km without refueling.
  • It can carry 12 missiles equipped with nuclear warheads and hypersonic missiles, with a payload of up to 40 tons of ammunition.
  • It is more than 54 meters long, equipped with 4 motors and a special coating against the heat generated by the explosions.
  • It is a supersonic missile launcher and is considered one of the most dangerous strategic bombers in the world and has been called the "Queen of Strategic Bombers".

In 2015, the Russian Defense Minister announced that Moscow was about to launch 50 new aircraft of the same type, and was working on completing the Tu-160M ​​series.

MiG-31 interceptor aircraft

It is an interceptor fighter dating back to the Cold War era, as it was designed to be in the category of heavy interceptor fighters that have a high speed that can intercept American supersonic bombers.

Its first test flight was in 1975, of which Moscow produced more than 500 aircraft.

At a low altitude, its speed reaches 1,500 km per hour, which is equivalent to Mach 1.23, while it reaches Mach 2.83 at an altitude of 17.5 km.

Its length is 21.5 meters, and the distance between the two wings is 14 meters.

It is 6.6 meters high and has a suite area of ​​61.41 square metres.

It has an empty weight of 22 tons, and after arming it reaches 36.7 tons.

The MiG-31 operates with two engines, has the ability to refuel in the air and can change its altitude at a rate of 208 meters per second.

This aircraft can carry 4 long-range R33E air-to-air missiles, in addition to 2 medium-range and 4 short-range missiles.

This plane is equipped with a radar that enables it to follow more than one target at high altitudes and can track winged missiles.

Several versions of this aircraft were developed, including the MiG-31BM fighter, which can destroy 24 air targets simultaneously. It is also an ideal alternative to ground air defense means, as its radar can detect any target from a distance of 1,000 km.

This aircraft has the ability to destroy a number of American bombers and aircraft, including the SR-71 Blackbird.

It also put into service the Air Force: 806 fighter planes, 1124 military transport planes, 1438 attack planes, 387 training planes, and the number of military helicopters is 1389.


January 20, 2018

Turkey is now alone, thanks to its erratic alliances

    Saturday, January 20, 2018   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

This map, produced by pro-gov. Syrian group, hints
to Syria's claim over most of Hatay province, could explain
the strategy for dealing with Idlib.
There are historical and political reasons for Turkey’s determination to prevent the formation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Syria. However, Turkey’s government might be nervous not just because of the Kurdish separatist aspirations, but also because of its long territorial dispute with the Syrian government, which considers most of Hatay province (Iskenderun) Syrian territory. Looking at the military strategy the Syria government has put in place since the start of its military campaign to regain lost territory, it would appear that the Syrian government wants to address its sovereignty claim over Iskenderun in the context of this armed conflict, in which Turkey has been deeply involved politically and militarily. Turkey, on the other hand, given its erratic decisions related to the Syrian crisis and given its fickle alliances, finds itself alone, abandoned by old allies, Saudi Arabia and the US, and untrusted by its new one, Russia and Iran.

September 28, 2017

Deir al-Zour is the end of the road in Syria for both, US and Russia, will they collide or reverse course?

    Thursday, September 28, 2017   No comments
By Abdel Bari Atwan
US-backed SDF (yellow) are now face to face with Russia-backed SAA (red)
For the first time since the Syrian crisis began some seven years ago, there is a growing prospect of a military collision taking place between Russia and the United States over the oil and gas fields in and around Deir az-Zour. The US wants these wells to fall into the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) so they can be used to sustain a future Kurdish enclave or state in northern Syria. Russia wants them to revert to the sovereignty of the Syrian state so their revenues can help fund the country’s reconstruction.

January 28, 2017

Was Astana Meeting on Syria a Success? Consider the reaction on the ground in Syria

    Saturday, January 28, 2017   No comments
Analysis: Was Astana Meeting on Syria a Success? 

Leader of the new faction created by Nusra: Abu Jabir al-Sheikh
In past, when the U.S. administration and the Russian government attempted to solve the Syrian crisis, their efforts collapsed because they failed to reach an agreement on identifying and separating terrorist groups from non-terrorist groups, or groups that are willing to negotiate a political settlement from those who don't. Then, after a single meeting held in Astana, which was convened by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, armed groups in northern Syria appear to be separating themselves along those lines. If that process continues, the Astana meeting would have achieved what many meetings have failed to do.

Even before the end of the Astana meeting, which was attended by representatives of about ten armed groups in Syria, the powerful group formerly known as al-Nusra, launched a preemptive war against the groups that took part in the meeting. Nusra accused them of signing on a deal that will isolate Nusra and label it as a terrorist organization, which will allow forces of the various coalitions operating in Syria to attack it. 

Seeking protections from Nusra, smaller armed groups quickly moved to join stronger Islamist groups. According to Ahrar al-Sham, on Thursday alone, six rebel factions, including Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups, joined its ranks.

Ahrar al-Sham, which presents itself as a mainstream Sunni Islamist group, sided with the FSA groups and said Nusra had rejected mediation attempts. It said that any attack on its new members will be tantamount to a “declaration of war.”

The groups that joined Ahrar al-Sham are: Alwiyat Suqur al-Sham, Fastaqim kama unmirt, Jaysh al-Islam--Idlib branch, Jaysh al-Mujahidin, and al-Jabha al-Shamiya--west Aleppo branch.

Ahrar al-Sham is considered a terrorist group by Moscow and did not attend the Russian-backed Astana meeting. But it said it would support FSA factions that took part if they secured a favorable outcome for the opposition.
    

These steps taken by Ahrar al-Sham created an internal crisis for the group. A number of its leading figures resigned and there were reports that some factions within the group left and joined Nusra. 

On Friday, and underscoring the titanic shift that took place after the Astana meeting and other developments around the world, Nusra, which had changed its name to Jabhat Fath al-Sham, announced that it is dissolving itself and merging with four other armed groups to form a new faction calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. This new coalition consists of Nour Eddine Zenki Movement, Liwa al-Haq, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, and Jaysh al-Sunna. They called on other armed groups to join them.

These events are extraordinary. Some have criticized the Syrian government for accepting settlements with armed groups and allowing their fighters to move to Idlib. It seems that Assad's government has had a long term strategy after all. With the infighting that is going to start soon that now new alliances are formed among the rebels, his forces may not have to fight these armed groups. They will battle each other to near extinction, given their propensity to see an enemy in every one who disagrees with them. The Syrian government will then move in and retake the province form the exhausted survivors without major losses.


September 17, 2016

Why does the U.S. administration want its agreement with Russia on Syria to remain secret?

    Saturday, September 17, 2016   No comments

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) scheduled a meeting this week to create a legal frame for the U.S.-Russian agreement on Syria. The meeting was eventually cancelled when France and several other permanent members of the UNSC asked for a copy of the actual agreement instead of being briefed about it by the two countries representatives. Russia agreed with France and expressed readiness to make public the agreement reasoning that they can’t expect their partners to endorse a deal they don’t know its details. After the cancellation of the meeting, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said:
 
“Most likely we are not going to have a resolution at the Security Council because the United States does not want to share those documents with the members of the Security Council. We believe we cannot ask them to support a document that they haven't seen.”

The U.S. administration refused to make public all the documents contending that doing so could put some lives at risk and jeopardize the success of the plan since it contains sensitive “operational details.” 
 
In any case, the Obama administration finds itself in a very delicate situation. The main sticky point that delayed the agreement with the Russian government was related to Russia’s insistence that the U.S. and its allies identify and separate the so-called “moderate” rebels from terrorists so that a political solution can be negotiated. Ostensibly, the U.S. administration eventually agreed to do so and its military and intelligence officials have provided their Russian counterparts with a list of names, without indicating their locations. 

It is likely that the named groups are members of the loose collective called the Free Syrian Army—FSA—which, in reality, was mostly crushed by al-Nusra and ISIL about three years ago. What is left of the FSA is either isolated in and/or near Turkey (and Jordan) and the rest are mingling with al-Nusra and Jaysh al-Fath. Those still mingling with Jaysh al-Fath released a statement criticizing the agreement and rejecting the part of the agreement that calls for joint U.S.-Russian military action against Jabhat Fath al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. They considered al-Nusra a legitimate rebel group. 

The FSA currently consists of these armed groups:
 
Faylaq al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, al-Firqa al-Shamaliyya, Jaysh al-Nasr, Harakat Nur al-Din al-Zanki, al-Ittihad al-Islami li-Ajnad al-sham, al-Jabha al-Shamiyya, Jaysh al-Tahrir, al-Fawj al-Awwal, Jabhat Ansar al-Islam, Kata’ib al-Safwa al-Islamiyya, Liwa’ Suqur Jabal al-Zawiya, al-Firqa 101, al-Firqa 13, al-Firqa al-Wusta, Liwa al-Hurriya al-Islami, Jabhat al-Asala wa-‘l-Tanmiya, Failaq Hims, Liwa’ al-Fath, Tajammu’ Fastaqim kama Umirt, and Jund Badr 313.
 
Nearly half of the above mentioned groups are also members of other coalitions, some of which include al-Qaeda affiliated Salafists, like Fath al-Sham and Jaysh al-Fath. These complex networks and affiliations underscore the administration’s real dilemma.


The U.S. administration is reluctant because, one the one hand, revealing actual names and locations of groups it supports would make it easy for terrorist groups to accuse them of collaboration with the “crusaders” and kill them, as they did with many individuals and groups in the past. On the other hand, revealing the actual names could expose the U.S. administration’s support for groups that might have committed war crimes, such as the case with al-Zanki, whose members self-documented themselves slaughtering a sick child near Aleppo not long ago (just this July).
 
Given the  atrocities committed by many of rebel groups, affiliated with the FSA, the U.S. administration prefers to leave its connections to groups that might be found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity secret to preserve deniability. However, the inking of the agreement with Russia made that task utterly difficult and the administration will be better served breaking any ties with groups suspected of committing crimes and working towards a solution that will stop the bloodshed and punish those responsible for some of the most gruesome crimes on both sides.
 

September 10, 2016

Will Jabhat Fath al-Sham (aka al-Nusra), Jaysh al-Fath, and ISIL join forces?

    Saturday, September 10, 2016   No comments
With a Russian-U.S. agreement intended to isolate them from the so-called moderate opposition groups, Salafist fighters could end up joining forces to survive in Syria and Iraq. This scenario is made possible by a religious decree issued by the foremost religious guide for Salafists, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. The latter just issued a fatwa declaring the Turkish army and all opposition groups supported by Turkey "murtadd."This declaration practically authorizes Salafist fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda and its derivatives to fight the Turkish government and rebel groups it supports.


It should be noted that al-Maqdisi intervened to keep peace between ISIL and al-Nusra and when that attempt failed he sided with al-Nusra. With both groups now being targeted by Turkey, Russia, U.S., non-Salafist rebels, and the Syrian government, Salafists may be forced to reunite again to spread the conflict zones and cause the cease-fire regime to which the U.S. and Russia has just agreed to fail. This unification option has been in the making since the U.S. and Russia began to talk early this year. Salafist leaders wanted to create a Sunni army  out of Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Istaqim kama umirt, and Jaysh al-Islam and other smaller groups affiliated with these armies.



September 2, 2016

Assad and Erdoğan said to be preparing for face-to-face meeting in Russia

    Friday, September 02, 2016   No comments
Assad and Erdoğan in 2009
It has been reported for sometime now that Turkish and Syrian intelligence officials have met on many occasions. Now, some sources are revealing that those meetings were not just about coordinating efforts to combat common threats to both countries, namely the Kurdish separatist, but to arrange for political leaders to meet. 

Turkey broke all diplomatic relations with Syria mere days after the start of the peaceful protest movement in Syria. Because of the lack of open channels of communication, the two countries relied on third parties to reach out to one another when necessary.

Earlier this year, some media outlets reported that Algeria played a key role in opening a communication channel between Syria and Turkey. Now, new reports are suggesting that Russia, after the surprising meeting between Erdoğan and Putin, is working behind the scene not only to transmit information between the two countries, but also to arrange for a meeting that will bring together Assad and Erdoğan in Russia. Importantly, the meeting is significant in that it will be part of a plan that could end the civil war in Syria.

Reportedly, the plan is based on some ideas from the Geneva and Vienna meetings, but more specific in terms of the fate of Assad and his role beyond the transition period.

The proposed plan will call for a unity government that will include members of the "moderate" opposition groups, with Assad still in charge of key ministries during a transition period. After about 18 months, a period during which the constitution will be amended, new presidential and parliamentarian elections will be held, in which Assad may choose to run. However, should he run and win, it will be his last term. Some of the opposition fighters will be absorbed into the Syrian army and officers who deserted  but did not take part in the war will be re-instated. Assad must work towards reconciliation by declaring a new amnesty for these officers who are now residing in Turkey with their families.

These are extraordinary events should they actually come true. But given the steps taken by Erdoğan when he apologized for shooting down the Russian jet near the Turkish-Syrian border, it is not at all impossible to see him take steps to reconcile with the Syrian government. After all, given that his troubles with Russia were over Syria, his normalizing of relations with Putin will be meaningless without addressing the main issue that caused the crisis with Russia in the first place.

It is clear by now that Turkey after the failed July 15 coup is very different from the pre-coup Turkey, albeit under the same president.

August 21, 2016

Will Erdoğan abandon Islamist armed groups now fighting in Syria?

    Sunday, August 21, 2016   No comments
It is established that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the party he founded, the AKP, are primary supporters of armed groups fighting the Syrian government. The AKP-led Turkish government opened its borders for Islamist fighters from all over the world to join the war against Assad’s forces.  It provided them with training, money, and weapons. The Turkish government also hosted the families of the Syrian fighters. 

Although its support went to all groups fighting the Syrian government because it prioritized the overthrow of Assad over all other matters, including fighting terrorism, the Turkish government offered special support to Islamists including al-Nusra Front and ISIL. It did so for sectarian and ideological reasons, but also for practical reasons: ISIL and al-Nusra were the strongest fighting groups in Syria and Assad’s government cannot be ousted without them. 

Five years later, and when Russia threw its military weight behind Assad, the Turkish government came to the realization that Assad is, and will remain, for the near future at least, a “key actor” who would play a role in any political solution for the Syrian crisis. That is when Erdoğan decided to adjust his strategy and work with Russia, instead of against it, to preserve some level of influence over the future of Syria. 

Syria is important for Turkey because of their shared problems and concerns: the status of the Kurdish people in both countries forced them to work together in the past, and will force them to work together in the future. In other words, Turkey has no choice but to remain engaged in dealing with the Syrian crisis. 

Adjusting the Turkish strategy will necessarily have significant effects on Turkish relations with Islamist fighters in Syria. Will Turkey abandon them?

The answer can be drawn from Erdoğan’s history. He is a very skilled politician who is willing to sacrifice old alliances in favor of better ones. If his alliance with Islamists becomes a burden, Erdoğan will dump them. Consider his alliance with Fethullah Gülen for proof.

Part of the credit for AKP and Erdoğan’s rise to power goes to the role played by Gülen and his movement. Yet, a decade later, when Erdoğan wanted to consolidate his power, he took steps to control that movement and its institutions. Gülen became aware of Erdoğan’s thirst for more power and he resisted him covertly at first. Erdoğan decided to bring him home where he can better control him. So on June 14, while speaking at a public event organized by a Gülen organization, he issued a public invitation, telling Gülen “it is time to come home.” Gülen, perhaps aware of the risks, tearfully declined the invitation on June 16, saying, in essence, not yet.

Four years later, Gülen stands accused by Erdoğan of being the mastermind of the failed military coup. Had Gülen accepted the invitation then, he would be in prison now, without creating a diplomatic and legal crisis with the U.S. administration, which is refusing to extradite him at this point.

Erdoğan, is the kind of politician who knows how to survive and will do whatever it takes to not just survive, but reverse losses and thrive. For this reason, Erdoğan is not only capable of abandoning his Islamist fighters in Syria, he could launch a military campaign to eradicate them altogether, and throw their Turkish supporters in prison. Justifying such actions will not be that difficult either. Terrorist attacks, like yesterday's, are enough to turn the Turkish public against all Syrian opposition fighters and create a new path toward reconciliation with a Syrian government with or without Assad.


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