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2017
-- As of January 20, 2017
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Blog: Stratfor - "Al Assad's Last Stand" by Omar Lamrani





 




Al Assad's Last Stand


December 6, 2012 | 1000 GMT

 


 "Al Assad's Last Stand is republished with permission of Stratfor."


By Omar Lamrani



The battle for Damascus is raging with increasing intensity while rebels continue to make substantial advances in Syria's north and east. Every new air base, city or town that falls to the rebels further underlines that Bashar al Assad's writ over the country is shrinking. It is no longer possible to accurately depict al Assad as the ruler of Syria. At this point, he is merely the head of a large and powerful armed force, albeit one that still controls a significant portion of the country.



The nature of the conflict has changed significantly since it began nearly two years ago. The rebels initially operated with meager resources and equipment, but bolstered by defections, some outside support and their demographic advantage, they have managed to gain ground on what was previously a far superior enemy. Even the regime's qualitative superiority in equipment is fast eroding as the rebels start to frequently utilize main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, rocket and tube artillery and even man-portable air-defense systems captured from the regime's stockpiles.



Weary and stumbling, the regime is attempting to push back rebel forces in and near Damascus and to maintain a corridor to the Alawite coast while delaying rebel advances in the rest of the country. Al Assad and his allies will fight for every inch, fully aware that their power depends on the ability of the regime forces to hold ground.



The Battle for Damascus 


It is important to remember that, despite considerable setbacks, al Assad's forces still control a sizable portion of Syria and its population centers. After failing to take Damascus in Operation Damascus Volcano in July, the rebels are again stepping up their efforts and operations in the Damascus area. However, unlike in their previous failed operation, this time the rebels are relying on an intensive guerrilla campaign to exhaust and degrade al Assad's substantial forces in Damascus and its countryside.




After the last surge in fighting around Damascus in July and August, the regime kept large numbers of troops in the area. These forces continued search and destroy operations near the capital despite the considerable pressure facing its forces in the rest of the country, including in Aleppo. Once the rebels began to make gains in the north and east, the regime was forced to dispatch some of its forces around Damascus to reinforce other fronts. Unfortunately for the regime, its operations in the capital area had not significantly degraded local rebel forces. Rebels in the area began intensifying their operations once more, forcing the regime to recall many of its units to Damascus.



Aware of the magnitude of the threat, the regime has reportedly shifted its strategy in the battle for Damascus to isolating the city proper from the numerous suburbs. The rebels have made considerable headway in the Damascus suburbs. For example, on Nov. 25 rebels overran the Marj al-Sultan military air base in eastern Ghouta, east of the capital. Rebel operations in the outskirts of Damascus have also interrupted the flow of goods to and from the city, causing the prices of basic staples such as bread to skyrocket.



Rebel Gains in the East and North



Damascus is not the only area where the regime is finding itself under considerable pressure. The rebels have made some major advances in the last month in the energy-rich Deir el-Zour governorate to the east. Having seized a number of towns, airfields and military bases, the rebels have also taken the majority of the oil fields in the governorate. They captured the Al-Ward oil field Nov. 4, the Conoco natural gas reserve Nov. 27 and, after al Assad's forces withdrew from it on Nov. 29, the Omar oil field north of the town of Mayadeen. Al Assad's forces now control only five oil fields, all located west of the city of Deir el-Zour. With the battle for the city and its associated airfield intensifying, even those remaining fields are at risk of falling into rebel hands.

 





The rebel successes in Deir el-Zour have effectively cut the regime's ground lines of communication and supply to Iraq. They have also starved the regime of the vast majority of its oil revenue and affected its ability to fuel its war machine. At the same time, the rebels are reportedly already seeking to capitalize on their seizure of the eastern oil fields. According to reports, the rebels are smuggling oil to Turkey and Iraq and using the revenue to purchase arms. They are also reportedly using the oil and natural gas locally for power generators and fuel.



While all of eastern Syria may soon fall into rebel hands, rebels in the north have continued to isolate al Assad forces in Idlib and Aleppo governorates, particularly in the capital cities of those two provinces. After overrunning the 46th regiment near Atarib on Nov. 19 following a two-month siege, the rebels are now looking to further squeeze remaining regime forces in Aleppo by taking the Sheikh Suleiman base north of the 46th regiment's former base.

The Rebels' Improved Air Defense Capability



Isolated and surrounded, regime forces in the north are increasingly relying on air support for both defense and supply. However, this advantage is deteriorating every day and is increasingly threatened by the rebels' improved air defense arsenal and tactics.



The rebels first attempted to acquire air defense weaponry by seizing heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft artillery. They captured a number of air defense bases, taking 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine guns, 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine guns and even 23 mm ZU-23-2 autocannons. Over time, the rebels became more proficient with these weapons, and an increasing number of Syrian air force fixed-wing and rotary aircraft were shot down. The rebels also formed hunter-killer groups with air defense equipment mounted on flatbed trucks that provided them mobile platforms for targeting regime air and infantry units.



As more and more regime bases were taken, the rebels were able to bolster their air defense equipment through the capture of a number of man-portable air-defense systems. At the outset of the conflict, the Syrian military maintained a large inventory of shoulder-fired air-defense missiles, likely thousands of missiles ranging from early generation SA-7s to very advanced SA-24s. These missiles were stored in army bases across the country. There are also unconfirmed reports that Qatar and Saudi Arabia may have transferred some man-portable air-defense systems to the rebels through Turkey.



The rebels tallied their first confirmed kill with shoulder-fired air-defense missiles Nov. 27, when they shot down a Syrian Arab Air Force Mi-8/17 helicopter near Aleppo city. The weapon system used in the attack was likely an SA-7, SA-16 or SA-24 captured from the 46th regiment. The surface-to-air missiles are a serious upgrade in the rebels' air defense capability.



The Fight Continues



Having isolated al Assad's forces in the north and made substantial advances in the east, the rebels are poised to push farther into the Orontes River Valley to relieve the beleaguered rebel units in the Rastan, Homs and al-Qusayr areas of Homs governorate. For months, regime forces have sought to overwhelm the remaining rebel forces in Homs city, but the rebels have managed to hold out. The rebels are also set to begin pushing south along the main M5 thoroughfare to Khan Sheikhoun and the approaches to Hama. However, first they need to overwhelm the remaining regime forces in Wadi al-Dhaif near Maarrat al-Numan.



Alternatively, the regime is fighting hard to maintain its control over the Orontes River Valley around Homs in order to keep an open corridor linking Damascus to the mostly Alawite coast. Not only is this corridor at risk of eventually being cut off, but the regime is also facing a substantial push by rebel forces into northeastern Latakia governorate from Idlib. Rebels have advanced in the vicinity of the Turkman Mountain, have taken control of Bdama and are now fighting their way down in the direction of Latakia city.



While events in Damascus and Rif Damascus are increasingly worrisome for the regime, al Assad's forces in the rest of Syria are also under considerable pressure from rebel advances. It is by no means certain that al Assad's forces are under imminent threat of collapse because they still hold a great deal of territory and no major city has yet been completely taken by the rebels. The retreat and consolidation of al Assad's forces also allows them to maintain shorter and less vulnerable lines of supply. However, it is clear that the regime is very much on the defensive and has been forced to gradually contract its lines toward a core that now encompasses Damascus, the Orontes River Valley and the mostly Alawite coast. With the regime's situation rapidly deteriorating, even the attempt to stage a gradual withdrawal to the core is risky.

-----------------------------------------------------


 Meanwhile...




US: Sarin bombs ready for Assad’s “go” order. Israel's odd silence

DEBKAfile Special Report December 6, 2012, 8:13 AM (GMT+02:00)

American officials said Wednesday, Dec. 4, that they believed bombs had been made ready with sarin gas, but not yet loaded onto fighter planes and Assad had not issued the “go” order. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned President Assad once again that he would be crossing “a red line” if he used nerve gas against the country’s rebels. But “there’s little the outside world can do to stop it.”
In answer to US allegations, Syrian spokesmen reiterated that their government would not use chemical weapons against its own people.


... Debkafile reported Wednesday:
 Facing Syria now are 10,000 US fighting men, 70 fighter-bombers and at least 17 warships, including the three Iwo Jima amphibious craft, a guided missile cruiser and 10 destroyers and frigates.
Four of these vessels are armed with Aegis missile interceptors.


---------------------------------------------------


That means there is a very good possibility that the Syrians may very well launch any Chemical Weapons they have against the USS Eisenhower Task Force, and rightly so, as self defense to the Obama Administration supporting Al Qaeda terrorists in the overthrow of their duly elected and sovereign nation. 

 And what is to stop their Russian allies from giving Syria its first nuke to smoke the USS Eisenhower Task Force into oblivion in self-defense?  

 If Obama proves to the Russians to be a Muslim first and Communist second, so as to threaten to permanently strip the Russians of their Syrian Mediterranean Naval Base, Putin being ex-KGB and tougher than nails Cold War material, we can expect a full blown escalation before the end of December, with the Turkish Military and Iran as well as Russia rushing troops and arms into Syria on the double quick. 

 If that happens, the whole dynamic will spiral so far out of control, the only way to stop World War III will be for the Democrats in Washington D.C. themselves to force Obama to resign from the Presidency.  The Democrats and those of the Obama Administration are too corrupt and incompetent to successfully pull off any other solution. 

 We can only hope the well more than 10,000 Sailors and Marines on 17 vessels don't have to perish in order for Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court (et al.) to remove someone who had no Constitutional right to occupy the U.S. Presidency in the first place, NOT having a United States Citizen Father and NOT being a mandated United States Natural Born Citizen by Article 2 Section 1 Clause 5 of the Constitution of the United States of America. 

That's my input.     - - Brianroy


--------------------------------

[[[[[December 9, 2012 update:

On December 7, 2012  World Net Daily reported 


Hours after NATO agreed on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to Turkey because of the crisis in Syria, Russia delivered its first shipment of Iskander missiles to Syria.


The superior Iskander can travel at hypersonic speed of over 1.3 miles per second (Mach 6-7) and has a range of over 280 miles with pinpoint accuracy of destroying targets with its 1,500-pound warhead, a nightmare for any missile defense system.



Obviously, it will be Russian troops manning these systems partly or wholly during at least the next 6 weeks or more.  


On December 8, 2012 Debkafile reports Iranians are flying in arms shipments to Syria




President Bashar Assad is regrouping his army in defense array in strategic parts of Damascus, while planting mines and bomb traps in abandoned bases. Convoys carrying missiles, shells and canisters armed with chemical and biological weapons continue to ply roads to the north, while the airlift of Iranian arms is rerouted to northern air bases.

On December 9, 2012, The Daily Star reports:

SHEIKH SULEIMAN BASE, Syria: 
      Radical Islamist rebels on Sunday seized large swathes of a Syrian military base west of Aleppo, as they consolidated their control over territory in the north near the Turkish border, an AFP journalist said.

       Sheikh Suleiman base sprawls over nearly 200 hectares (500 acres) of rocky hills about 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Aleppo city, an area now almost completely under rebel control.

Fighters hoisted a trademark black jihadist flag over one of the buildings they captured in the morning as firefights persisted with light weapons as they tried to take the rest of the base.

Many of the fighters are non-Syrian and one of their leaders, who identified himself as Abu Talha, said he is from Uzbekistan.

 Three FSA [Free Syrian Army] brigades -- Nureddin Zinki, Al-Beit and Al-Ansar, whose ranks comprise mostly Islamist fighters -- have laid siege to the base for several weeks.

End of update]]]]]

[[[[[Update, December 13, 2012   Israel's Debkafile issued this important news update below:

 http://www.debka.com/article/22608/Assad-fires-Scuds-to-stop-Al-Qaeda-arm-seizing-chemical-arms-at-Al-Safira

Assad fires Scuds to stop Al Qaeda arm seizing chemical arms at Al Safira

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 13, 2012, 10:50 AM (GMT+02:00)
Syrian Scud missile
By the blacklisting Tuesday, Dec. 11, of the Jabhat al-Nusra group fighting in Syrian rebel ranks as “a foreign terrorist organization” and affiliate of al Qaeda in Iraq, Washington faces four quandaries:

1. The 10,000 fighters of this al Qaeda affiliate are the best-trained and most professional component of the Syrian rebel front;.


2. Jabhat al-Nusra fields 3,000 fighters out of the mostly Free Syrian Army’s 14,000 rebels fighting in and around Aleppo. They also constitute the assault force’s spearhead.

3. The Islamists are at the sharp front edge of the rebel force battling for control of the Syrian army’s biggest chemical weapons store at Al Safira, near Aleppo. Thursday morning, Dec. 12, they were just a kilometer from the base’s northwestern perimeter fence and advancing fast. By week’s end, Jabhat al-Nusra jihadis may have smashed into the base and seized control of the chemical stocks and Scud D planes standing there armed with chemical warheads.
The imminence of this peril forced Bashar Assad’s hand into sending Scud jets against rebel-held areas in an effort to stop their advance on the base.

4.  This al Qaeda affiliate is also better armed and equipped than any other Syrian rebel force, thanks to the generous financial and logistical aid laid on by Persian Gulf sources, especially in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.


 ...If Assad fails to stop the al Qaeda fighters from reaching Al-Safira and its poison gas stores - and an al Qaeda affiliate succeeds for the first time in arming itself with chemical weapons - the United States will have to mount an air assault – not on Assad’s army but on the Syrian rebel forces fighting him, because if they do manage to seize control of the base, rebel fighters may decide to send the chemicals-tipped missiles against Assad regime centers in Damascus.


The fall of al Safira would then transform the Syrian civil conflict into a chemical missile war.

End of December 13, 2012 update]]]]]



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[[[[Update - December 18, 2012

 http://www.debka.com/article/22618/US-pulls-war-fleet-from-Syrian-water-Ahmadinejad-cancels-Turkey-visit

Debkafile reports the following: 

US pulls war fleet from Syrian water. Ahmadinejad cancels Turkey visit

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 16, 2012, 10:33 PM (GMT+02:00)

... Washington quietly recalled from Syrian waters the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier and its strike group and the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready group and the 2,000 Marines on their decks.

...Now that the American warships are gone, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet task force, which docked at the Syrian port of Tartus on Dec. 5, is the only war fleet remaining around the Syrian coast. 

According to debkafile’s intelligence sources, the Russian ships came to deliver a large consignment of arms for Bashar Assad’s army, although Russian sources claimed the vessels put into port for minor repairs and refueling.

  ....America’s action in removing its naval forces from the eastern Mediterranean is “hard to understand and unacceptable to Ankara.”
This is especially so, he said, in view of the discovery, reported by US official sources Friday, that the Syrian ruler has a larger chemical arsenal than previously believed – several dozen bombs and shells loaded with the lethal chemical sarin.
To appease the Turks, our sources report that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta paid a short visit Friday, Dec. 14, to the big air base in southern Turkey where US strike aircraft are stationed alongside Turkish warplanes.
 
...Barack Obama decided to pull the formidable warship fleet away from the neighborhood of Syria in an effort to defuse the military tensions rising between Iran, Turkey and Syria

... Saturday, Iran’s chief of staff Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, raised regional temperatures when he referred to the NATO Patriot missiles posted along Turkey’s border with Syria as “meant to cause a world war. They are making plans for a world war, and this is very dangerous for the future of humanity and for the future of Europe itself," he said.
.... 
End of Update]]]]] 

[[[[[Video added December 23, 2012



end of update]]]]]

 

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