All day Friday and Saturday, Aug.11-12, fighters of Hizballah’s elite Radwan Force – 3,000 in all – streamed to the pivotal Aleppo battlefield from all parts of Lebanon and Syria. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that they were following the orders of their leader Hassan Nasrallah, who was warned byTehran that the pro-Assad army fighting for Syria’s second city was flagging in the face of rebel assaults.
The Radwan Force was called in as the only military capable of saving the day for Assad and his allies. This step had been carefully avoided by Nasrallah in view of the heavy losses his organization had already suffered for backing the Syrian army – some 1,500 dead in three years – and intense fallout at home.
He has now been forced to sacrifice his last remaining military asset to fight in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in recent times in the Middle East, even though it promises a swelling procession of HIzballah coffins returning to Lebanon.
According to our military sources, the battle to wrest Aleppo from rebel control, now in its second month, has claimed some 2,000 war dead and 4,000 injured on both sides – not counting the masses of civilians.
Some units have lost more than a quarter of their combatants and dropped out.
Nasrallah knows exactly what is happening in this critical arena. He also understands that a unit which loses 30 percent of its combatants is deemed in military terms unfit to continue fighting and that the battle for Aleppo will be drawn out and bloody. Yet he is willing to commit his entire deck of military resources to keep Bashar Assad’s fighting in Aleppo.
There is no hope of an early resolution in Aleppo, because stalemate between the combatants is exceptionally complicated and thankless. Whenever one side captures terrain, it quickly discovers it was drawn into a trap and under siege.
This hopeless standoff is the result of Moscow’s refusal to provide the Syrian army and its allies with enough air support to pull ahead, in the wake of President Vladimir Putin talks with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Erdogan explained that if Assad’s army, along with Hizballah and Iran, defeated the Turkish-backed rebel forces holding Aleppo, he would suffer a serious knock to his prestige and setback for Syrian policy. This was more than he could sustain in the troubled atmosphere in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup against him.
He therefore asked the Russian president to abandon his Bashar Assad, Iran and Hizballah to their fate in Aleppo.
Erdogan was backed up in his request to Putin by a large Turkish military and intelligence delegation which arrived in St. Petersburg the next day to work with their Russian counterparts on setting up a joint military control center in Turkey.
debkafile’s sources disclose the first two tasks assigned the new war room:
1. Russian aerial bombardments over Aleppo would not go beyond keeping the rebels from defeating Syrian and allied forces in Aleppo, but would refrain from supporting offensive action by the latter for routing the former.
2. Turkish air and ground forces would remain in a state of preparedness to ensure that rebel Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish YPG militia never moved out of the town of Manjib, from most parts of which they ousted ISIS, to the town of Jarabulus on the Turkish border.I
ISIS had used Manjib as its primary way station for supplies from Turkey 30km to the north. (See attached map). But to drive the jihadists completely out of the Syrian-Turkish border region, the combined rebel forcesmust advance on Jarabulus and expel ISIS from there too.
However, Turkish officers in the joint command center with Russia made it clear that any Kurdish forces allowed to reach that border would come under Turkish army attack.
The Russian president complied with Erdogan’s wishes on the Manjib-Jarabulus front as well as Aleppo