US & Russia Prepare to Massively Obliterate ISIS in Syria

The White House and the Kremlin are looking at the weeks from mid-April to May as their provisional timeline for a massive assault to uproot the Islamic State presence stalking Syria.
The US, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Holland are assembling a bomber fleet for the offensive, DEBKA Weekly’s military and counterterrorism sources report. The bad blood between Moscow and Ankara makes Turkey’s participation doubtful. (On Jan. 29, Turkey accused Moscow of another violation of its airspace. It was denied.)
The plan on the table is for the bombers to take off in waves from US and French aircraft carriers, bases in the US and Russia and points in the Middle East, to ceaselessly pound the de facto ISIS Syrian capital of Raqqa until it is reduced to rubble. Ground forces will then move in and take the site over.
A source close to the planners compares the coming Raqqa blitz to the allied Dresden operation at the end of World War II when, for three days in February 1945, heavy US and British bombers dropped 4,000 tons of explosives on the German city, killing 25,000 people and reducing it to smoking embers.
For the assault on ISIS, the Netherlands was the last to join the combined force. On Jan. 29, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that a six-fighter Dutch squadron stationed in the region for striking ISIS in Iraq will be joining two more squadrons in Syria for a mission scheduled to last until July 1.
That date fits in with the time frame drawn by US and Russian planners for winding up the counter-ISIS campaign in Syria.
Its disclosure also offers the first glimpse of the US-Russian agenda in Syria for the first half of 2016:
From January to the middle of April – a ground campaign in Syria and the installation of a provisional regime to replace President Assad.
(This process is covered in detail in a separate item).
From mid-April to July 1 – a massive allied air offensive against ISIS.
Ready for this offensive, Moscow is already flying in from Russian bases Tupolev Tu-22Ms strategic bombers for their first raids in Syria. They were followed last week by the deployment to Syria of Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes. Specializing in hitting ground targets, their assignment will be to strike ISIS convoys trying to escape the savage bombing raids over Raqqa and reach Iraq.
But this escape route is to be cut off. The allied air campaign will be coupled with an offensive to tighten the screws on ISIS’s Iraqi seat in Mosul, 450 km away from Raqqa, so as to deprive the jihadis of shelter and a chance to regroup at an alternative base.
According to US and Russian planning, the allied ground offensive in Raqqa should find the jihadis who survived the air blitz trapped with nowhere to go.
For this leg of their anti-ISIS operation, Moscow has been exhorting the Obama administration to arrange a jumping-off air base in Iraq from which the Russian air force can strike Mosul.
Washington has resisted this demand until now but, as their shared Syrian peace process takes shape, the Obama administration may reconsider.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email