What Russia taught Syria: When you destroy a city, make sure no one -- not even the story -- gets out alive.
05-Mar-2012 (6 comments)

Putin's new strategy was unbending: silence, encircle, pulverize, and "cleanse." It was a combination of brutal tactics -- a Stalinist purge of fighting-age males plus Orwellian propaganda that fed Russians a narrative wherein Chechen freedom fighters were transformed into Islamist mercenaries and terrorists. More than 200,000 civilians were to die in this war, the echoes of which continue to this day.....

This time, journalists were specifically targeted to prevent sympathetic or embarrassing reports from escaping the killing zone. As such, you can't find a lot of stories about the second Chechen war. One of the few and best accounts was written by Marie Colvin, who described her terrifying escape from Grozny for the Sunday Times. Last month, Colvin thought she could roll the dice and enter the besieged Syrian city of Homs to defy yet another brutal war of oppression. This time she lost.

Assad's ability to lethally target journalists using satellite-phone uplinks could well have cost Colvin her life. Multiple reports have suggested that Syrian forces used phone signals to pinpoint her location and then launched a rocket barrage that resulted in her death on Feb. 22, along with that of French photographer Remi Ochlik and multiple Syrian civilians. >>>

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Would moral scruples stop Khamenei from Chechyna-style tactics?

by FG on

Rigging elections is one thing--a process that began with increased Guardian vetting in 2004 to assure that never again could the people vote in a majority of refomers into the Majlis.   But "putinizing" Iranians is something else again.   Is Khamenei--self-proclaimed as God's representative on earth--so uncrupulous?  Yes, indeed!  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what he is capable of.   The man has no moral scruples.  So here's a reminder:




Imtimidation at home: Yes!  So why not intimidation abroad?  Houston police now believe a young Iranian woman in Texas with no known enemies was shot in the head, execution-style by Iranian agents to intimidate others.   It fits known regime patterns.




Anahid Hojjati

Thanks FG for posting this news item

by Anahid Hojjati on

Putinize seems like a good word. As far as your question, if China and Russia don't support IR any more, it will result in its fall much sooner than we can ever hope. However, a change in these governments would be needed before that happens.


Hamas rules out military support for Iran in any war with Israel

by FG on





NOTE: Although I started this post with a news item over 24 hours ago for some reason it hasn't appeared yet on the home page.  Nevertheless, I've decided to condinue posting under the lead rather than add news posts because I prefer not to take up space.


VIDEO: 1st Alawite Battalion of Free Syrian Army

by FG on

When Alawites start to defect you know the regime is going down, having ticked off too many people with too much brutality. 




The Muslim world needs a new & sarcastic verb for this

by FG on

So I just invented one--To "putinize."

EXAMPLE: "Homs just got putinized"

EXAMPLE: "Will Iran also suffer from putinization?" 

Chechnya's was first to be putinized.  Syria is now being putinized.   Is Iran next? . Damn those Russia military advisers!  Damn those Katyushkas!  Damn those big mortars!

Maybe inventing a word like this will do some good, if it gets picked up in Syria, Iran and the Arab world.  I'm sure that would worry Russian policy makers.

Virtually every analyist agrees that Syria's conflict would end instantly if Assad were to give up power and go into exile.   So long as China and above all Russia support him, Assad will stay.  Meanwhile Russia supplies more weapons by the day. The day the Russians withdraw support, Assad will step down and go into exile because he'll have no alternative.  If he does otherwise, the regime won't last more than two months if that.

Primarily because of Russia, Syrians must die, die and die and Iranians must suffer, suffer, suffer a police state.  To Iranians here I ask one question: Suppose the governments of Russia and China would join in condemning the Iranian regime.  What effect would that have on its life expectancy?



On employing Chechnya tactics against Syrians, Iranians

by FG on

If Assad borrows Putin's Chechnya approach  ("silence, encircle, pulverize, and cleanse") it is likely that Khamenei will do the same. Both draw miliatary advice from the same source: Putin's Russia.

What is important to note is that Putin's strategy succeeded in Chechnya for one reason only: Putin could realistically discount in advance the possibility of outside intervention as impractical for many reasons.  In Syria and especially Iran, those reasons don't apply.  

For many good reasons Arabs and the West may drag their feet longer in Syria but the logic of Assad's chosen strategy must ultimately force their hand. To win one battle is not to win a war.  Homs was merely the prototype for a Chechnya-style approach.  To succeed the strategy must be applied consistently in city after city.  That will take more time and manpower than Assad possesses.  The patience of outsiders may vanish first.

Militarily intervention is easier and more probable than in Chechnya a billion miles away.  Syrian and Iran are  within easy reach of Arab and Western public opinion and the military forces that can unleash.  Having insisted on staying where he wasn't wanted, and using all necessary means to do so, Assad's death is likely to be as brutal as Khadaffi's.  If he somehow succeeds, have no doubt Khamenei's will imitate what worked elsewhere.  The catch lies in a key assumption that the world won't intervene here either.


For domestic political reasons it is hard for Western-style democracies to employ Chenchya-style tactics against insurgents.  

A genuinely free press, augmented these days by modern media and internet blogging, will always spill the beans.  Recall the damage from two famous photos in Vietnam (a South Vietnamese officer placing a gun to the head of a captured Viet Cong and blowing him away, and a young girl and her brother running down the street and screaming after being hit with napalm.  Public opinion and the need win impending free elections constitutes a second restraint.   In Iran, Syria and Chechnya none of these protective checks apply.

American counterinsurgency doctrine relects these democratic restraints. You try to minimize civilian casualties on the assumtion that such casualties only reinforces insurgents--recruiting troops faster than you can kill them.  Some collateral damage (civilian casualties) will occur only because they can't be totally avoided.   None of this means that individual units won't engage in occasional atrocities (My Lai, Al Gharab) or misbehavior (burning Korans) but it is "occasional" and never directed from above in such cases.  

Putin's counterinsurgency strategy is 180 degrees contrary.  To achieve its intended effect (terrorizing an insurgent population into submission), Chechnya strategy uses a "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" approach.   It requires the top-down, systematic and premeditatd mass murder hundreds of thousands of civilians and extreme, conscious destruction of their property. Hence, the value of targeting even peaceful demonstrations, especially women and children.  

Spare no one.   Slit throws, cut off heads and leave beaten bodies behind--whatever works.   To succeed it is critical to hide your crimes from the world until the job is done.  Thus intentional targeting of unescorted outside journalists is de riguer but must be accompanied by the usual apologies and denials.

Tactically the best way to achieve such goals is by shelling civilians, their homes and businesses from a distance with artillery, rockets (katyushkas) and the world's biggest mortars (all supplied by Putin).   Nothing demoralizes an infantry like shelling.  To insist regular troops to repeatedly mow down civilians with automatic weapons is too demoralizing as they watch their bullets tear men, women and kids to pieces.   Close up attacks in urban areas should be avoided becaus they favor a lightly armed enemy while making armor highly vulnerable.    


Iranians would surely prefer to fight their own battles without help or by peaceful Gandhi-like demonstrations.   That may be suicidal against a cold-blooded regime with no free press or open elections to restrain it's behavior.   To count on such assumptions guarantees tens of thousand of deaths at minumum and far more mutiliations.  Toss in intentional property damage.

If Iranians call for help, will it come?  Will it take as long as in Syria. Humanitarian concerns alone may not suffice. Gving the cost in blood, money and deficits (the regime counts on that) it is self-evident that no western democracy can save everyone.  So one must pick and choose. 

Terrain and population density limit "no fly zone" possibilities in Syria.  The conflict will likely destabilize neighbors and produce a weak, factionalized state afterwards a la Libya.   The worst fear is that Al Queda-style Islamists might acquire a base from which to export terror elsewhere.

Few of these obstacles apply to Iran. However, intervention will cause some destruction and civilian casualites even if far less than what the regime's Chechnya-strategy would produce.    Even so,  look for the mullahs to exploit any misfires.  Ditto for some elements in Iran's opposition who will express decades-long indignation afterwards for domestic political reasons.

I see four reasons why Iranians appeals for help will not fall on deaf ears and will likely bring a relatively quick response:

1. Unlike Assad, the IRI has a never-ending record of covert destabiliation schemes against too many neighbors.

2. Revenge: the USA owes the mullahs payback for the marine barracks in Lebano, Iraq IEDs and kidnappings and the embassy siege.  

3-4. The Aftermath: Unlike Syria, the fall of the mullacracy would to more to stabilize the region than destabilize it.  Unlike Syrians, Iranians will have any interest in hard-line Islamists (an Al Queda equivalent) after escaping 33 years under this crummy regime.