Russian Officers Liaise with Iranian Command, Poach on US-Backed Kurdish Groups

While the almost daily landings of Russian troops and advanced hardware at a Russian base in western Syria finally rates wide Western media coverage, Russian reconnaissance teams of officers and specialists were discovered by DEBKA Weekly’s military sources to be quietly making the rounds of certain warfronts.
They have been calling in on local Syrian, Iranian, Hizballah and the other units in the field and receiving briefings from their officers on the state of play at the various battle fronts.
One team was spotted visiting battle sites around Damascus; others at Hama’s Al-Ghab Plain, or in areas around the northern province of Idlib and in the western Alawite Mountain range overlooking Latakia. But they appear to be giving a wide berth to the Zabadani front, where a large Hizballah-pro-Iranian Shiite militia force has been hammering away for nearly 90 days, without breaking the grip of Syrian rebels, spearheaded by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, on the strategic town.
The Russian teams are drawn from officers from the infantry, armored corps, air force and marines, as well as artillery and military engineering experts.
Our intelligence sources report that this week, one of these groups visited the Iranian command headquarters which is lodged at the scenic hilltop town of Bloudan, 51 kilometers northwest of Damascus and overlookin the Zabadani plain. Before the war, the town was a tourist destination that attracted many Arab visitors to its fine restaurants and hotels.

Russian recon agents liaise with Iranian command for briefing

But times have changed. Iran has quartered its main Syrian command center in the town, converting its hotels into offices, residences and communications centers for Iranian officers. Bloudan is guarded as a virtual ex-territorial enclave by the only enlisted Iranian army unit to be brought into the country.
The Russian visitors no doubt liaised with, and were given a briefing on the war situation by, their Iranian associates.
Another call which drew Washington’s attention was the one made by the Russian reconnaissance team at the headquarters of the Kurdish YPG militia in the northern Syrian town of Hasakeh. The YPG is the only rebel group in Syria to have made headway against the Islamic State and even snatched back captured territory.
Its success owed much to the reinforcements coming in from the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga, the outlawed Turkish PKK fighters who arrived from northern Iraq – and US air support.
For two weeks, a debate has been going back and forth at the US National Security Council and the Pentagon in Washington over substantial US military aid to the Kurds, as the only military elements in Syria and Iraq which have given the Islamic State terrorists a hiding and curtailed their advance.

US in throes of “analysis paralysis”

This week, it was revealed in Washington that US Special Forces are already “providing air support, training, and supplies” to the YPG militia.
But more delays have set in. “About 100 pallets of arms and other aid” have been held up at an American air base in the Persian Gulf, awaiting authorization for delivery, some US officials admitted, explaining that approval was complicated by the debate over “Russia’s military escalation.”
One source frankly called it “analysis-paralysis.”
Another complication crept in on Sept. 22, DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Washington point out, when it was revealed that retired US Marine Gen. John Allen, President Obama’s envoy for the war effort in Iraq and Syria, is quitting in early November.
Allen’s resignation was officially explained by the need to care for his wife who is fighting a serious illness. However, sources close to him admitted that the ex-general “has been frustrated by the White House micromanagement of the war” and its failure to provide sufficient resources.
In particular, he failed to push through his recommendation for the establishment of safe zones in Syria, and was refused permission to deploy special forces teams in Iraq to mark high-profile targets for US air strikes.
Moscow has once against grabbed an opening left by the US in its war on ISIS and sent a team to try and poach on American Kurdish territory.

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