Archive for category Syria

Weapons Stuff: Syrian Rebels Create And Deploy A Remote Controlled Sniper Rifle

It always amazes me how resourceful and ingenious folks can be during desperate times, and especially in a war. Obviously this kid created a weapon system that fit his mission and worked well with his skill level, which was probably playing video games.

Now the question I have is if this will catch on with other rebel groups? Will this kid start a ‘remotely operated sniper system’ movement in this war, and what direction will it go for advances? How about automatic targeting or tracking? How about the incorporation of a laser rangefinder into this system.  Something like Tracking Point’s weapon system? We will see….

Although at the end of the day, I still believe humans operating the sniper rifle directly will account for more kill shots in Syria. It is the most practical, cheapest and most portable way of deploying that system. –Matt


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Syria: Incredible Footage From A Tank In Damascus

This is incredible combat footage from a tank in Syria. The tank being destroyed by a missile (starting at 2:58), right next to the tank with the camera is absolutely brutal. The devastation is beyond belief and it right out of a scene during WW 2. –Matt


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This is a screen shot of a tank crew filming another tank, just as they were destroyed by an anti-tank missile.


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Syria: Defense Contractors Are Training Rebels On How To Secure Chemical Weapons

Now that is a contract! lol I imagine they are paying these guys quite a bit of money to not only train the rebels on how to secure these chemical weapons if captured, but to also have contractors on the ground and monitor these weapons on the battlefield itself. Very dangerous and that has DBA written all over it.

As to whom is providing this training and monitoring is up in the air. I had written a post about Syria’s chemical weapons and MANPADS and the concerns with that, and in it I mentioned Tetra Tech as a possible solution for at least helping to clean up and secure ‘captured’ or ‘destroyed and captured’ chemical munitions. But for this particular story, I have no clue who the contractor is or if they are looking for folks. (if any readers have an idea, let me know and I will make the edit)

The other really ugly thought on this, is the absolute disaster this would create in the cities of Syria. Meaning if entire cities are coated with the oily VX Nerve agent all over everything, then after the war, someone is going to have to go in there and clean it all up. Or how would you like to by Syria’s neighbor? yikes…. Yet again, this would be a task for a competent chemical munitions cleanup company and that kind of contract would be insanely dangerous. The question is, will Assad cross the red line and use chemical weapons in his war?

Finally, the other bitter reality in all of this is the threat of losing control of these weapons. Hence why there are monitors on the ground keeping eyes on these things. But in warfare, it never fails to amaze me about the ingenuity of each side of a conflict and how they are able to use deception to continue the fight and gain advantage. Do we have eyes on all of these weapons, and can we control all the events in regards to these weapons? Well, rebels have certainly gotten their hands on captured MANPADS, and that might give us a clue as to the chemical weapons reality. We will see how this plays out…. –Matt


Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons
By Elise Labott
December 9, 2012
The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.
The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.
The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American.

One of the aims, the sources said, is to try to get real time surveillance of the sites because the international community would not have time to prevent the use of the weapons otherwise. The program could explain how U.S. intelligence was able to learn what U.S. officials said was evidence the Assad government is mixing precursors for chemical weapons and loading those compounds into bombs. The intelligence, one U.S. official told CNN last week, came not just from satellite surveillance, but also from information provided by people. The official would not say whether the human intelligence came from telephone intercepts, defectors or people inside Syria.

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Syria: What About Those Chemical Weapons And MANPADS?

QUESTION: We’re seeing more and more reports about opposition fighters getting their hands on anti-aircraft weapons, mostly being seized from the Syrian army. I know this was a big concern of the U.S. in Libya, and that a lot of effort and a lot of money went into finding out where these weapons were going. Is that possible even in Syria, and how concerned is this Administration about the possibility of those weapons getting out there?
MS. NULAND: Well, if what you’re talking about it MANPADS, Cami, you know that around the world we have been very concerned about the proliferation of MANPADS and about their use in – on conflict and combat.
That said, we have a Syrian opposition that is facing some of the most egregious and horrific violence we’ve seen exacted on a civilian population anywhere. We have reports, as you know, over the weekend of summary executions by the Syrian regime. We have reports of aerial strafing of people lined up waiting for bread outside of Aleppo.
So, while it is difficult, it’s not surprising that unfortunately the opposition is fighting back in whatever way it can to try to protect civilians. And this is a direct result of the fact that the Assad regime is not stopping its assault and, in fact, is continuing its assault and using increasingly horrible and brutal methods.
QUESTION: But this will be a big problem if, as you say, the Assad regime is going eventually, and then you have all of these weapons out there, and not knowing who all the various opposition people are, you’ve got all these weapons again.
MS. NULAND: Right. Well, as we’ve said a number of times here, and as the Secretary said in Istanbul, as we look at what we’re calling day-after planning – planning on the U.S. side but also internationally for how we can support the Syrian people after Assad goes and when they’re in that transition phase – one of the key issues we’re looking at is how we might be able to offer support in securing, safeguarding some of the most dangerous weapons from the Assad era. So it would not only be some of these kinds of things, but also chemical weapons, et cetera. That’ll certainly be a very, very big job for them, and we are looking at how we can be ready to help if we’re asked.State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, August 27, 2012

Syria is definitely a troubling problem when it comes to weapons, and losing control of them. This country actually has large stores of chemical weapons, along with a scattering of MANPADS like SA-7’s throughout the country at various bases. As more terrain is gained by the rebels, the chances of these weapon sites being exploited by the rebels and anyone else in the area is high. Losing control of those weapons is not good, and the fear is that they will find their way into other parts of the world and be used in terrorist attacks. Or even used in all out assaults against countries like Israel.

The question is, what will be done about it?  That is the million dollar question.

For one, I believe we will just have to assume that some of this stuff will be taken and smuggled away to wherever. I don’t think we can prevent that unless we have troops and folks on the ground, physically going in there and securing or taking these weapons.  As it stands now, it seems like we are dependent upon the honesty of those rebels in Syria that are involved in the fighting. But any jihadists with them could care less about what the west thinks, and yet the jihadists are there on the ground and actively fighting along side these guys.

If we were to put folks on the ground, what would be more politically feasible–military or contractors? That is a question I have thrown around on Facebook and have received lots of interesting feedback. Some say the military is better equipped and other say that contractors are equally capable and politically more feasible than the military. Who knows, and both resources could do the job. Hell, a combination of both would be even better. Someone to take the sites in the initial phases (military) and someone to hold the site after things have cooled down (contractors).

With any intervention we do, it will certainly require a partnership with the locals. I suggest using the CMC projects in Iraq as a possible model of operation for any contractor based solution. In Iraq, the Coalitions Munition Clearance program was a contract completely run by civilians and Army Corps of Engineers to secure old Iraqi Ammo Supply Points that were damaged in the war, and ‘clear’ or destroy those weapons on site. The program was highly successful and helped to remove tons of weapons from the battlefield that could have otherwise been used by the insurgents.

But a program like this is highly dependent on areas that are not contested in war zones. In other words, a project needs to be set up in territory that has been taken from the Syrian government. If not, that contracted security force could end up doing some heavy duty fighting or defending and be outgunned. But in zones being loosely held by local forces, negotiations can be made and the security of that site can become a priority and even a cash cow for the locals. I think the locals would also appreciate someone willing to go in there and destroy that nasty stuff.

What can be done is to ready private forces to move in as soon as territory has been gained, or to move in as soon as there has been a complete collapse of the government. Because then at that point, arrangements can be done with local leaders, tribes, etc.–much like how the CMC projects worked. The project can also employ local Syrians in doing some of the non-technical work. The guard force can be a combination of Syrians and expats. Like I said before, the CMC projects are a great model of operation for something like this.

Besides, companies are already being tasked with chemical munitions management and destruction. In the US, Tetra Tech just won a 489 million dollar CMA contract to do just that. Hell, they are even going to Vietnam to clean up agent orange sites. Here is a  quote:

Tetra Tech, Inc. recently announced that it has secured an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract worth $489 million from the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) and is a part of Integration Support V (PAIS V) contract.

As per the contract, the company will be providing program management and technical support to the CMA and the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program at facilities across the U.S for the next five years.

Tetra Tech will also support a variety of program management, integration and technical services support for aiding efficient destruction of chemical warfare and related material. This support comprises environmental studies, design, monitoring, operations and maintenance, quality assurance, safety and logistics support services.

Simultaneously, the PAIS V contract activities enable the U.S. Army to fulfill the international chemical weapons conventions and move toward disintegration of chemical agent disposal facilities and stockpile storage areas.

Apart from this, Tech will also be helping CMA in managing its non-stockpile chemical material program and chemical stockpile emergency preparedness program.

In addition, Tetra Tech recently received a contract for the excavation and construction activities related to the environmental decontamination of Vietnam’s Da Nang Airport, affected by dioxin pollution. This contamination was the result of the use of chemical herbicides and defoliant during the Vietnam War.

Tetra Tech was also one of the companies used in Iraq for the CMC projects. So the private side of this solution is there and it is capable.

One final note is about these MANPADS in Syria. It is very difficult to get a fix on who has them or where they are at. There are a few folks out there that are putting together a picture for public consumption. Especially with all of these videos and social media related bits of news. CJ Chivers is one of those guys doing an awesome job, and he goes into how to properly view and pick apart these videos. Here is another blogger that is tracking the locations of Syrian MANPADS that have been identified in news stories.

As this develops, we will see the direction it takes. The west is definitely interested in securing this stuff, and the real question will be ‘how’. Perhaps we will see a repeat of how we did things in Libya, or this might require a different direction…Who knows? I do know that the clock is ticking and the rebellion is not waiting for anyone. –Matt


Destroying munitions in Iraq.


Worries intensify over Syrian chemical weapons
By Joby Warrick
September 6, 2012
Western spy agencies suspect Syria’s government has several hundred tons of chemical weapons and precursor components scattered among as many as 20 sites throughout the country, heightening anxieties about the ability to secure the arsenals in the event of a complete breakdown of authority in the war-torn nation, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say.
Officials are monitoring the storage sites, but they expressed growing fear that they have not identified every location and that some of the deadly weapons could be stolen or used by Syrian troops against civilians.
“We think we know everything, but we felt the same way about Libya,” said a former American intelligence official who was briefed on U.S. preparations for both conflicts. “We had been on the ground in Libya, yet there were big surprises, both in terms of quantities and locations.” The former official was one of several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

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Syria: DIY Armored Trucks–The T-HOMS75

Now this thing is an interesting creation and I will tell you why. It is wedge shaped, which indicates to me that it could be used for barrier busting. Like knocking down sandbags/walls and getting in some quick shots with the mounted DShK. Then they pull away so they can reload and maybe attack from another point.

The wedge shape is also great for deflecting incoming small arms fire, or maybe even some cannon fire from the front. So on the streets of Homs where every inch of territory is being fought over with a vengeance, something like this was probably purpose built to deal with an issue the rebels identified.

Another cool use for such a vehicle is creating mouse holes in walls. So if you are able to punch a hole in a wall, then your assault team can run into those breaches and either make an escape or obtain a tactical advantage in a fight. They can also rescue downed rebels in a fight if they had to.

Who knows, but it definitely looks like they are taking some notes from the Libyans in their war and the Narco Tanks in Mexico. They probably checked out all of the ‘Mad Max’ designs back in the day in Iraq as well.  Interesting DIY Armor and if anyone has anything to add about this vehicle, I would be interested to hear what you got. –Matt



….Something much weird of the anti-aircraft pick up was recently spotted in Homs, Syria. It’s a sort-of improvised Suzuki pickup converted into armored vehicle capable to open its way through barriers and sand bags, equipped with a Doshka machine gun.

Dubbed T-HOMS75 by the Zaman Al Wasl reporter that took the first pictures of it, the vehicle is operated by a crew three people (driver, gunner and assistant): the gunner stands behind the drivers cabin with the gun placed on top of it.

It is capable of a maximum speed of 80 km/h (due to the added weight) and gives protection against light and medium machine guns, allowing to move in places guarded by snipers.

From the Aviationist.

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Syria: In Syria, Send In The Mercenaries, By J. Michael Barrett

This perked me up, just because Syria is the new ‘Libya’ when it comes to any kind of western involvement. But involvement is a lot more precarious in this case, and the folks we would be supporting are questionable. And like the piece below mentioned, we tend to arm and train folks that end up turning against us down the line. So the author below presents the alternative, or using mercenaries, as opposed to arming rebels and forever losing control of the weapons we throw at the problem.

What makes this article so interesting to me, is the author. This guy is not some yahoo. He is the CEO of Diligent Innovations and a former ‘Director of Strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council(Feb.-Oct., 2007) , Intelligence Officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Senior Analyst for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff‘ . You might also recognize him from all of the interviews he has done on the various cable news shows.

Not only that, but he is a Wikistrat expert. Wikistrat has quite the pool of experts and to be one of them, you have to have some game in the beltway. Some of his fellow Wikistrat experts include such names as John Robb of Global Guerrillas, Dr. Ann Marie-Slaughter (R2P), Dr. Thomas PM Barnett (Sys Admin), Professor Allison Stanger, and the list goes on….

So back to this deal in Syria. I would be curious if this concept of using mercenaries instead of arming folks has been mulled around at Wikistrat?  Or if Michael has actually given this some serious thought on how this would work?

Or it could be just a piece that raises an idea for those to either support or strike down based on it’s merits. From a technical point of view, I guess a company could be called upon to perform offensive operations.  MPRI definitely helped in the planning and strategy for Croatia during the Balkans crisis. Executive Outcomes was contracted to fight and win wars both in Sierra Leone and Angola. So technically, a company or companies could provide this service. (the author mentioned The Flying Tigers, and he gets kudos for that!)

In Libya, contractors and mercenaries were used on both sides of the conflict, and they are still there. Hell, contractors were calling in targets for the air campaign and individuals were joining the rebel army. Here is a quote from Simon Mann about Libya.

In the Libyan revolution further lines of demarcation – between government forces and PMC forces – became more blurred. From Tripoli it has been reported that UK ex-Special Forces were used, in some places, instead of regular troops. This came about because of the uncontrolled and the ‘everywhere’ presence of war correspondents, accredited and otherwise. Their prying eyes made the covert deployment of SAS and SBS troops difficult.

Even so, the need for trained laser designator operators to bring in air dropped laser bombs, with as much precision as possible, had to be met. Therefore designator kits were supplied to ex- UK SF contractors. These were men whose salaries were being paid for by the oil companies, for oil field site security. They were already in country, already on contract.

Even for Syria, there have been reports of contractor involvement. During the whole STRATFOR data breach deal, emails detailed that SCG International has been involved with helping the opposition in Syria.

So I guess my point is that the waters are being tested for how best to approach Syria. Do we do nothing and allow a brutal regime to murder their own people? Do we arm and train the opposition, with the possibility that some day those weapons and training might be used against the west?  Or do we send in mercenaries because sending troops is something a war weary west is not that interested in or willing to pay for?  Or maybe we do nothing at all, and watch a massacre take place. Not a lot of easy answers.

One thing is for sure. If Syria falls, then jihadists would be able to capitalize on the situation.  If weapons and munitions are captured or liberated during the course of the revolution (much like what happened in Libya), they will find their way into other wars and terrorist operations.

Jihadists will also find their way into the politics of Syria, much like how the Muslim Brotherhood gained political market share in Egypt. So basically we would see extremists replace a dictator. The question here is can the west win over a rebel group and gain influence by assisting them, or will we be demonized despite our actions and contributions, just because of the islamic extremist influence within that revolution?  Can we compete in that kind of environment and should we be involved?

Might I also add that Saudi Arabia and GCC nations are getting involved and adding money to the pot. Upper level leadership in the US are getting involved and pushing to do something in Syria. Of course Russia is sending folks to support Assad, and China is showing their support for Assad as well. So things are happening and who knows how this will turn out.

It is also important to bring up this responsibility to protect deal as well. If the west feels it has an obligation to intervene–to stop a massacre, then something more than talk needs to happen. It takes action and the will to make it happen, and it also requires a realistic look at what we want to accomplish strategically in the region. Sending troops is a bridge too far for a war weary, cash strapped, and politically paranoid/sensitive west, and maybe contractors paid by GCC donors is the ticket? I will keep a look out for further industry involvement in Syria and this one will be interesting to follow. –Matt



In Syria, send in the mercenaries
J. Michael Barrett
April 10, 2012
The world community, including the United States, is at a crossroads about the right steps to forcefully prevent the further slaughter of civilians in Syria. There are many good reasons to intervene — to stop the death, detention and probable torture of any number of innocents; to support the democratic right of people to consent to rule by a freely elected government; and to avoid a repeat of the U.S. inaction that allowed Iran’s dictatorship to prevail in 2009.
There are just as many reasons not to intervene — the sovereignty of nations; the moral hazard of providing U.S. troops where our national interest does not dictate; and the uncertainty about those we would be helping take power. All the while, do-nothing diplomatic talks and easily ignored cease-fires continue to fail because the talking doesn’t change the facts on the ground.
But is there another way — something more effective than merely clamoring for calm, but less direct than intervening militarily or arming and training the rebels?
In fact, there is. Throughout the ages, the answer to such situations has been to raise an army for hire and send in the mercenaries. This was done throughout the great power struggles of the first and second millennia across the globe, and in more recent decades across Africa. Libya’s Gadhafi tried to use mercenaries to defend his regime just last year. We also placed many guns-for-hire in Iraq and Afghanistan, provided by the likes of Triple Canopy and the company formerly known as Blackwater.
Perhaps the most relevant example here is the World War II American Volunteers Group, better known as the “Flying Tigers.” Prior to Pearl Harbor, when America was not yet party to World War II, these combat pilots’ actions were known but not officially endorsed by the White House under President Franklin Roosevelt. They were pure mercenaries, pilots who resigned their U.S. military commissions to serve in a foreign air force for high pay — some received $600 a month in 1941 dollars and with the promise of $500 more for every Japanese plane they shot down.
The pay-for-service model suited the needs of the day. It allowed skilled fighters to side-step the moral and legal hazard of sending uniformed U.S. troops, whose duty is to uphold the Constitution by fighting our enemies, not to intervene in missions that lack a direct national security rationale.
One potential roadblock of note is the Neutrality Act of 1794, a centuries-old congressional effort to ensure the then-fledgling U.S. was not dragged into wars by citizens acting as mercenaries in conflicts where the United States was not engaged. However, this law, rarely enforced, reflects outdated thinking about the modality and nature of declarations of war. It also treats violations as a misdemeanor. If the imperative to save lives is so strong, Congress or President Obama could surely find a path around it, including a waiver or other injunction. Beyond that, the government’s only role would be to work behind the scenes to have Saudi Arabia and other interested nations pick up the tab, much as they did during the process of countering the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Given the perceived imperative to intervene in Syria, but the countervailing duty to respect state sovereignty and the lack of United Nations sanction (due to perpetual vetoes by China and Russia), mercenaries might well be the best prescription, Neutrality Act or no. They would allow the U.S. to avoid arming the locals directly, about whose character and intent we know little.
This would not resolve the underlying question of who comes to power after the regime falls, but it would allow for a humane defense of the Syrian population without committing America officially or putting American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at risk.
J. Michael Barrett, the CEO of Diligent Innovations, is a former Director of Strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council and a former Naval Intelligence Officer.
Link to post here.
J.Michael Barrett
Mike is a national security expert and noted author with an extensive background in defense policy, military intelligence, and support to US counter-terrorism operations. His extensive national security credentials include serving as the Director of Strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council, Intelligence Officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Senior Analyst for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Feb.-Oct., 2007).
Mike has been interviewed on television and radio by ABC, The Canadian Broadcast Company, Fox News, FRONTLINE, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, The New York Metro News, New York Sun, and The Washington Post. He also is the co-author of two books on security and counter-terrorism (including a New York Times Best Seller) and has authored more than a dozen journal and opinion-editorial articles.

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