Iran- and Russia-Backed Offensive Closes in on Rebels in Aleppo

The Islamic State is pushing into new towns along the northern outskirts of Aleppo and Assad regime troops backed by hundreds of Iranian troops are pinching rebels in the city. The introduction the new foreign troops is the first overt deployment of Iranian combat forces of the civil war. “There are mobilizations by the regime ...


The Islamic State is pushing into new towns along the northern outskirts of Aleppo and Assad regime troops backed by hundreds of Iranian troops are pinching rebels in the city. The introduction the new foreign troops is the first overt deployment of Iranian combat forces of the civil war. “There are mobilizations by the regime in most parts of Aleppo,” a Syrian rebel commander told Reuters. “There were advances (by Islamic State) at dawn but we were able to recover Ahras entirely. There are battles in Tel Jabin.” The Assad regime is also trying to push forward on other fronts near Hama and east of Damascus. The United States has reportedly increased its resupplying of rebels in Syria’s north, prompting concern from Turkey, which summoned the U.S. ambassador on Wednesday to voice its disagreement over U.S. ties to Kurdish militias in Syria.

U.S. and Russian military officials are nearing completion of a memorandum of understanding to prevent conflict between U.S. and Russian jets over Syria after three rounds of discussions on the subject. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov touted Russia’s role in Iraq on Wednesday, claiming that it is helping the Iraqi government with its campaign against the Islamic State, and an Iraqi parliamentarian cited Russian intelligence sharing as helping with Iraqi bombing runs. However, Lavrov noted elsewhere yesterday that Russia “had not received requests for direct military support from countries other than Syria.”

Saudi Arabia Slowing Aid to Yemen as Fighting and Humanitarian Crisis Continues

The Saudi-led intervention force in Yemen is deterring vessels from delivering humanitarian aid, according to a new report from the U.S. Navy that cited a warning broadcast to all commercial ships off the Yemeni coast. Fighting between Houthi rebels and the pro-government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition continues: Airstrikes in Taiz and Bayda province killed 22 Houthi fighters, and Houthi rebels fired a Scud missile across the border toward a Saudi airbase. In Marib province, 12 pro-government fighters and five civilians have been killed in recent weeks by landmines believed to have been placed by retreating Houthi fighters.

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  • The Associated Press reports that its tally of casualties in the September 24 stampede during the hajj in Mina, Saudi Arabia, has risen to 1,621 deaths; the Saudi government’s official figure of 769 killed has not been updated since September 26.


  • Two more stabbings took place in Jerusalem on Wednesday; Israeli security forces have begun erecting roadblocks and checkpoints in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to try to check the violence.


  • Iraqi forces are ramping up offensives against Islamic State militants in Ramadi and Baiji.


  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to travel to the Middle East to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the recent spate of violence, probably as an extension of a scheduled trip to Europe this weekend.


  • Turkish authorities have arrested 12 people for things they posted on Twitter about the bombing in Ankara this weekend that killed 99 people, according to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Arguments and Analysis

Imagining a New Security Order in the Persian Gulf” (Frederic Wehrey and Richard Sokolsky, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

“At the heart of the current dilemma is a clash of visions between the two sides of the Gulf littoral: Iran seeks the departure of U.S. forces so it can exert what it regards as its rightful authority over the region (which it believes is self-evident in the area’s geographic name). Meanwhile, the Gulf Arab states desire a continued American presence to balance what they see as Iran’s historical ambition of hegemony. A new window of opportunity may be opening to resolve this dilemma. The nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plus Germany — raises the possibility, albeit a distant one, of creating a new security order in the Gulf, one that could improve relations between Iran and the Gulf Arab states and help reduce the American military commitment. This has been accompanied by the concurrent rise of a more militarily capable bloc of Gulf Arab states who — while still falling short of real self-sufficiency and, in the case of Yemen, using their capability irresponsibly — could presage a new era of confidence among these historically jittery kingdoms.”


Joint Syrian-Iranian-Russian Offensive Achieves Only Limited Initial Gains” (Chris Kozak, Institute for the Study of War)

“Operations against the Syrian opposition will likely prove harder and slower than anticipated by either Russia or Iran. On October 2, head of the Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee Alexei Pushkov predicted that Russian operations in Syria would only last ‘three or four months’ although he noted that there is ‘always a risk of getting bogged down.’ Russian President Vladimir Putin has also suggested that Russian air support will be sufficient to ‘stabilize the legitimate authorities and create conditions for finding a political compromise’ in Syria. Meanwhile, Iranian National Security and Foreign Policy Committee chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi insisted during a visit to Damascus on October 14 that cooperation between Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia has already been ‘positive and successful.’ The stiff defense mounted by rebel forces thus far belies this wishful thinking. The foreign allies of the Syrian regime may be forced to expend further financial and military resources in order to preserve their initial gains. The expanded interventions of both Russia and Iran will likely incentivize the Syrian regime to prioritize a military solution to the Syrian Civil War, protracting the conflict and leading to further bloodshed rather than movement towards a political solution. The heightened pressure being brought to bear upon the Syrian opposition may also drive moderate rebel factions towards closer relationships with Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and other malign Salafi-jihadist groups, further constraining U.S. policy options in the country.”

-J. Dana Stuster


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