The Syrian Times They are a Changin’

Just as the MoD release an operational update which describes how many $500 pickup trucks it has destroyed with £100,000 Brimstone missiles our friend in Moscow displays yet more flair for upsetting the apple cart and catching the West totally off guard.


After several days of sightings and rumours, Vladimir Putin has confirmed the presence of Russian military forces in Syria, firmly on the side of the Assad regime. They are ostensibly there to advise, train and support;

To say we’re ready to do this today – so far it’s premature to talk about this. But we are already giving Syria quite serious help with equipment and training soldiers, with our weapons. We really want to create some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism. To this end, we hold consultations with our American partners – I have personally spoken on the issue with US President Obama.

Images have emerged of vehicles, personnel, communications equipment and accommodation, a typical logistics advance party. These build on 40 odd years of Russian presence in Syria, in some regards, this is more of the same.

The US and Europe have painted themselves into a corner with typical ineptitude, the mature long term thing to do would have been to work with Russia and Assad to at least attempt some kind of negotiated ceasefire that would isolate ISIS and allow concentration of resources on their destruction. By insisting Assad must go we create no incentive for Assad to rush to the same fate as Ghadaffi.

This has created a perfect opportunity for Russia to step in.

What the end state of Russian involvement will be is not certain but what is certain is that this intervention is at least something different in the never ending misery that is the Syrian civil war.

The reality on the ground is that if Russia does deploy a meaningful force, air or land, the West will have to cooperate, however difficult that will be.

Interesting  times ahead.


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September 6, 2015 8:05 am

I think the time for action is clear, but air strikes can only have a limited impact. Training will also help, along with the supply of arms, but there needs to be a security framework in place to not make it counterproductive.

There needs to be a political ceasefire enforced between the Assad, Free Syrian Army and Kurds backed (and heavily pushed) by the Regional Powers (including Iran), Russia, US and Europe. Then we can tackle ISIS effectively and create the safe havens for refugees that are needed.

September 6, 2015 8:30 am

We made the mistake of demanding “Assad must go” several years ago and have convinced ourselves somehow it would be terrible if we changed our position as reality on the ground changed.

The reality is the Assad regime is fighting ISIS, it is fighting a variety of other Islamist groups such as Al Nusra the idea of a secular democratic third force resistance is a myth. The Kurds in Syria are a relatively small group and will fight to protect their areas but even with support they are not interested in marching to Damascus, a long term solution would have either independat or autonomous Kurdish area but of course that is anathema to our Turkish allies.

If we are refusing to put boots on the ground why on earth would we object if the Russians are willing to put boots on the ground to fight ISIS, particularly when it is in a country which has had a close relationship with Moscow going back to the 1950’s.

September 6, 2015 8:38 am

Anyone who knows how al-Assad regime operates would have known that it would have reacted in the way it has done. It has done this before. Although on a much smaller scale. That fact that Assad is desperately trying to stop his country turning into an Islamic Country seems to have bypassed every Western Leader.

September 6, 2015 9:21 am

My suspicion is that due to the large numbers of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe, we are going to see public opinion harden in Europe. Which way it goes is anyone’s guess, but I am betting on a reluctant US dragged into putting ground forces into Syria to create a safe haven for Syrian refugees, as the only other alternative is likely the rise of the right and serious bloody civil unrest in Europe, as there is only so much we will take from successive Governments pissing our taxes on supporting migrants, while telling us we are racist for being angry that such ideals as equality for women are trampled on in the name of multiculturalism

September 6, 2015 11:43 am

Refugees out of the Mid East and Africa isn’t exactly a new story it’s a tragic decades old one. Heightened media coverage fuelled by a legacy of bush and blairs wars and the western championing of the Arab spring and government stance on anti migration at the last election. Unintended consequences or politics is politics.

September 6, 2015 11:47 am

I think it’s great that the Russians are going in. I only hope that the Chinese and Arabs all end up in their as well. Europe and the USA should not have to shoulder a responsibility for the mess that these guys have created. They are all arming different factions and clearly we are not going to do anything about it.

The more we meddle the worse we make it. It’s time to partition Syria and bring and end to the war. If that means moving large numbers of people around inside the country along different religious and ethnic lines then that’s what will have to be done. The country is a basket case and always will be unless it’s broken up.

Turkey also needs to get out of the way and accept some sort of Kurdish state.

It’s was a major miscalculation of the west to oppose the Assad regime and try and have it kicked out. Assad has never caused us much of an issue and even fought on our side in 1991. what ever jihadi Sunni regime replaces him is likely to be significantly worse. Every time any faction in Syria gains an upper hand we end up opposing them. Wars don’t end that way and we really need to end this war soon.

Again why is any of this our problem? Plenty other people in the world with far more strategic reason to get involved. Let them all sort it out.

Aubrey's Shadow
Aubrey's Shadow
September 6, 2015 12:19 pm

It’s simply the price we now have to pay for incompetent high-level diplomacy, where policy (such as it could be loosely described…) has been shaped by a combination of disinterest, ineptitude, timidity and fear of the tabloids and ‘pubic opinion’ polls, all done in response to events.

No doubt we are in for more wishy-washy, half-baked initiatives, supported by sound-bites and a heavy dose of reluctance. I wonder what Reagan and his team of heavy-weights might have done…?

September 6, 2015 12:21 pm

: I think we missed the boat on Syria long ago. By refusing to actually support anyone who opposed Assad and refusing to bomb him even after our “red lines” were crossed, we lost all credibility with the opposition, who went elsewhere for their support. Even now, the US managed to train a grand total of 57 insurgents with a half billion of cash. Why so few? They were required to fight ISIS only, and not Assad!

September 6, 2015 2:18 pm

Technically, I support Assad. I have never put much stock in the “better futures” that revolutions always seem to promise but never deliver, and at least he kept a lid on the madness. The West seem to have this insane mindset that “revolution” is always better, hence any revolution is a good thing, totally ignorant of the fact that some revolutions are bad news. Look at what the much praised Arab Spring has got us. Extremists all over the place, brutal police actions (by Assad too I have to admit), destroyed infrastructure, refugees etc.

The West needs to bloody well learn that “revolution” is not a panacea to all ills, it can sometimes be the root cause to a lot more suffering and death.

TD, I have always thought that comparing the cost of munitions and their targets was always a misleading practice. Can you imagine some penny pincher at HQ asking a soldier to hold fire because their munitions cost more than the target?

“Target! Sandbag bunker!”
“No shot, no shot, sandbags cost $0.50 per bag, you are not allowed to shoot more than 10 rounds at it!” :)

“Technical firing on our men! Take it out fast!”
“Negative, cost of technical is less than that of our LGB!”

Do you want to fight a war like that?

When something needs to be killed, it needs to be killed, even if the cost is more than the enemy’s. The alternative is to let it live to cause more damage, havoc and losses.

September 6, 2015 4:23 pm

September 6, 2015 5:25 pm

@ Observer: Economic warfare is nothing new. Look at Operation Outward during WW2 for an extreme example of using something incredibly cheap to cause more damage to the target than can be countered in any cost effective manner. They kept throwing those baloons at the Germans because even if they sent a plane up to shoot them down the flying cost of the air time cost more than the balloon did in the first place, let alone the cost of ammunition.

If we are using aircraft and LGB’s against a toyota and it’s absurdly expensive, then perhaps other options should be considered in case we lose wars because we can’t afford to continue replacing the weapons. This is true across all areas: the use of remote control helicopters with a camera tacked on (sorry, UAV) is going to get sodding annoying in future conflicts if it costs more for the MANPADS used to shoot it down than the cost of the thing in the first place.

The Other Chris
September 6, 2015 6:03 pm

Cost is relative.

Pinching TD’s £500 Toyota and £100,000 Brimstone figures, how much is that Toyota worth comparatively with regard value to the opponent and their ability to acquire and operate them?




September 6, 2015 6:44 pm
Reply to  Peter

True Peter, but I think the argument is actually backwards. The cost may be expensive, but if you do not do it, the result may be even more expensive. Using Op Outward as an example, it is like saying shooting down those balloons is expensive, therefore we should not shoot it down.

Sometimes, the expensive way is the only way. Unless you cut costs so much that you force a 150 million dollar aircraft to go low for strafing and put itself at risk. Then all you have to do is lose a single aircraft to a MANPAD and your “cost savings” become a loss. Penny wise and pound foolish. Besides, I don’t think Brimstone is really that expensive compared to other weapons.

As ToC pointed out below, another point of view is that while in dollar value, the LGB is more expensive, in terms of value to the opposition on a limited supply line and budget, it is invaluable.

stephen duckworth
September 7, 2015 10:31 am

Part of the reason for Russia’s assist in destroying ISIS in its homeland is the recent expansion of groups swearing allegiance to them in the Caucasus.
ISIS allegiance will attract money and recruits to these stagnant groups giving them new impetus to raise hell in Russia’s underbelly. Think of the trouble the Chechen’s caused (and still simmering) to Russia.