Good morning. Here’s your Early Warning for Tuesday, 13 February 2018.
Some details of a U.S. battle in Syria last week have leaked, and it’s quite embarrassing for Russia. Somewhere between 100-200 contract mercenaries — mostly Russian fighters — died in what’s being described as a “failed attack” against a U.S. and U.S.-backed rebel base in Syria. This is being reported by Bloomberg, citing both U.S. and Russian sources. While Secretary of Defense called the attack “perplexing,” another U.S. official described the attack as “unprovoked”, which is leading some to speculate that the attack was a rogue event. The mercenaries are fighting in Syria at the behest of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, so the attack could have been an attempt at taking over a U.S.-held oil refinery. [source]
Analyst Comment: As unpredictable as it is, I’m really not surprised. The battlespace in Syria is a jumbled mess of state-backed militias. Add to that Russian mercenaries hired by the Assad regime who appear to have been acting in the interests, if on not the orders, of Assad, and the picture becomes even more complicated. You’ll remember that last year several outlets reported that the Defense Department was funding militias who were fighting against CIA-backed militias. Although the Islamic State has been largely routed and Assad declared victory in the seven-year civil war, the U.S., Russia, Iran, Turkey and other countries still have a vested interest in accomplishing their own objectives in Syria. That means that the fighting is anything but over.