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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
November 23. 2015

Publication: Putin in Syria
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Syrian Rebels Advance South of Aleppo: Fight Hezbollah and Iraqi Militias
Jaesh al Fattah, a major rebel group backed by the United States, has seemingly struck a major victory today in southern Aleppo province.

We can confirm parts of this story from various sources.

First, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria posted this statement on their Facebook page:

The beginning from Aleppo, where fierce clashes took place between rebels and Assad's forces on the front of Bashkoy in the northern suburb; rebels targeted Assad's strongholds with hundreds of shells followed by a vast assault by the rebels to liberate the village, while warplanes launched an air-strike on Tal Mseibin village in the surrounding of Bashkoy, and no casualties were reported.

In the same context, rebels were able to destroy a Shilka vehicle, a tank, an a machine gun for Assad's forces on many fronts of Aleppo.

There are more reports of rebel advances south of Aleppo, confirming that Iraqi Shiite militias have joined the fight and are working with Hezbollah fighters:

Coordinating Syrian regime forces, Hezbollah fighters, and Iraqi militias is a strategy we've seen before -- but it's one that is typically associated with the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, specifically the Qods force which has been calling the shots in Syria for years. That makes the rumor that Qods leader Qassem Soleimani was injured, or even killed, in a recent battle even more interesting.

Al Arabiya is reporting that Soleimani has been injured (translated by The Interpreter):

Soleimani is currently undergoing treatment at a Tehran hospital.

A site specializing in Iran's secret news detected that Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force, the external intervention wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria, was seriously injured.
In response to a question for Al Arabiya, the White House spokesman Josh Ernest said he was aware of reports about the injury of Qassem Soleimani in Aleppo, but he cannot confirm it now.

“Secrets of Iran” Website, which is close to the "National Council of Iran Resistance" [which is run by the " People's Mujahedin of Iran," or MEK, not a reliable source -- The Interpreter] mentioned that Qassem Soleimani was seriously wounded with two of his companions 12 days ago during Aleppo battles, as they were hit by a "Tow" missile.

According to the report, Gen. Soleimani was transferred after getting first aid to Tehran, and he is currently undergoing to treatment in a hospital in the Iranian capital.

It is noteworthy that a large number of Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers were killed or wounded in the fighting between the rebels and the Syrian regime, like Gen. Hossein Hamadani, top adviser of the Revolutionary Guards.

Military observers believe that Qassem Soleimani had pledged to Putin during his visit to Moscow last August before the Russian direct intervention in Syria, to settle the fighting on the ground in the two fronts of Aleppo and Homs in favour of Assad's forces and his allies, with Russia’s air coverage.

It should be noted that Qassem Soleimani personally took command of the Iranian forces and the pro-[regime] militias fighting alongside the Syrian army, immediately after the killing of Gen. Hossein Hamadani, but in spite of sending additional 2000 Iranian fighters recently to Syria and pumping more military and material support to the Iraqi Hezbollah, Fatimioun, Al Afghani, Pakistani Zainabioun  and the Lebanese Hezbollah, enjoying the Russian air coverage, these forces have failed in changing the balance of power on the ground, because of the resistance of Syrian rebels who killed 80 officers and commanders of the Revolutionary Guards.

According to the site, "Secrets of Iran" Soleimani and after his return from Moscow last August, tried to achieve ground victories, in order to harvest its results in the new round of political negotiations about Syria, when Russia begun bombing opposition forces on September the 30, 2015 instead of ISIS, as a prelude to achieve the agreed goal with Tehran.

In this context, Soleimani and Hossein Hamadani met in October the 5th, 2015 with the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime and proposed "the plan of the month of Muharram" on him, which aims to restore Aleppo from the Syrian opposition hands, but Hamdani was killed in October the 8th in Syria, which disappointed the Iranian regime, Soleimani then had to lead personally the forces under the command of the Revolutionary Guard.

The report adds that, on the back of Soleimani’s injury and transferring him to Tehran, a senior Qods Force commanders took the leadership of Iranian forces and their militias last week, the "secrets of Iran," did not reveal the identity of the commander, however, he confirmed according to sources in the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards in Syria, that " Muharram plan " was completely a failure.

Leaders of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran were quoted, that hiding facts about  the injury of Qassem Soleimani, are due to fear from publishing this news that might lead to despair and frustration among fighters of the Revolutionary Guards in Syria and the Iran pro militias, and even Assad's forces.

For its part, Iran has chosen silence over this news.

Fars News, the hardline Iranian daily, rejected the rumor last week, but it's still unclear if there is any definitive proof that Soelimani is injured or not.

A similar rumor was spread in September.

Still, Syrian rebels have won a clear victory today and continue to frustrate the efforts of the Assad regime, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia to restore the area south of Aleppo to regime control.

Meanwhile, we reported earlier that Russian soldiers have reportedly entered the battle in Latakia. The LCC statement does not make mention of this but does describe heavy fighting -- and possibly a defeat -- for rebels fighting in Latakia:

As for Latakia, rebels destroyed a 14.5 mm machine gun vehicle in Zweik village in Turknam Mountain with a TOW missile.

On the other hand, LCC reporter in Latakia confirmed that clashe took place between National Defense Forces and Military Security checkpoint members on the eastern entrance of Jablah city, which led to the fall of wounded among them.

The LCC statement also covered Daraa and Damascus, to the south, and locations in ISIS-controlled Raqqa:

[Many] wounded were fallen in Karak Sharqi town in Daraa suburb due to dropping barrel bombs on the town by Assad's helicopters, along with other four barrels on Tafas city. Beside that, Assad's forces shelled the towns of Samlin, Rakhim, and Yadouda, and no casualties were reported.


Assad's helicopters dropped 20 barrel bombs on Daraya city in Damascus Suburbs, along with launching more than 10 air-strikes by the warplanes on Marj area in the eastern Ghouta, while other 3 air-strikes were launched on Joubar neighborhood with no reporting of casualties.

On the other side, International Coalition Air-Combats launched an air-strike on ISIS strongholds in Hneida town in Raqqa western suburb.

-- James Miller, Ronak Younes

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Reports Of Russian Infantry Fighting In Syria

Elijah J. Magnier, chief international correspondent for Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper, reported this morning, citing a "high ranking source" in the Syrian government that Russian ground forces have taken part in an assault in the Latakia province.

For the first time a Russian infantry backed by T-90 tanks and Russian Air Force Su-25M stormed the Syrian Takfiri opposition between Latakia and Idlib countryside’s, capturing a strategic hill after five hours of fierce battle resulting in no casualties among the attacking forces.

A high ranking source said ”the Russian live manoeuver required the use of 130mm artillery battalion backed by a heavy air bombardment to the hill before the advance of the infantry as a test of the troops’ readiness and to raise the efficiency of engagement of the Russian forces in further battles on the Syrian soil against terrorists. Russia is also showing the real evolution and strength of its troops that did not participate in real battle for many years. The Syrian forces and allies provided only logistic support without participating to the battle as requested by the Russian officers. Many terrorists were killed and left behind in the battlefield.”

The mountainous border between the Latakia and Idlib provinces has seen heavy fighting between regime forces and rebel fighters, with Russia conducting regular, heavy air strikes on towns such as Jabal al-Akrad and Salma.

It was in this area that Russian TOS-1 Buratino thermobaric missile launchers were filmed in action last month.

T-90 tanks have also been spotted in Syria, deployed at the Hmeemeem airbase used by Russian jets:

Today, photos of T-90 tanks, purportedly taken in the Aleppo province, appeared on social media:

Just last week, Russia's Vedomosti was told by a Ministry of Defence official that Russian artillery units were indeed providing fire support for regime troops on the ground, but the source insisted that no infantry operations were being conducted.

-- Pierre Vaux