Sunday, October 04, 2015

Current speclations on Russia in Syria and related matters

The surrogate war occurring in the Middle East has taken new turns with the introduction of direct military involvement by the Russians in Syria, even it if primarily is an arms transaction.

Thoughts on how the situation may evolve.

  • First, one might expect the Saudis to try to now stir up trouble for Russia in the Crimea and Chechnya.  This pledge of allegiance may be the start of that process.

  • Second, Russians need oil prices to be in the range of $85-$114/bbl and they are currently about half that.  Iran likewise wants to bring its production to world markets and either it must compete with a crowded field of suppliers or production has to be disrupted elsewhere to create a market opportunity if prices are to rise.
  • Third, if oil & gas supplies from Saudi Arabia or the Emirate states were disrupted, then it is likely the price of energy would go up.  Last week a diplomatic incident unfolded because Iran was caught with a bomb factory in Bahrain.  Diplomatic relations between Iran and Yemen and Bahrain have been affected. Could this be the beginning of Iran's effort to destabilize the Sunni oil kingdoms that have made its life miserable for years?
  • Fourth, Coalition air support in the last few weeks has focused on helping the Kurds secure oil fields near Kirkuk.  That appears to be successful. One may wonder where oil and gas fields are in Syria and whether or not fighting might focus on control of them before winter sets in.  Last winter Syrians burned wood for heat and cash flow for whatever government emerges will depend on some limited source of energy to pay bills and rebuild.
  • Fifth, if the Russians are expanding their influences back into the Mediterranean one might expect them to want more bases.  The Soviet era might provide some guidance as to where they will go.  Keep an eye on Mersa Matruh in Egypt.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Exclusive: shipwatchers chart Russian hardware heading into Med - Euronews

Photographer Yörük Işık, who is an amateur military ship observer, said: “In our observation group, the most important development we have seen is that commercial ships have also been used to carry military equipment, although not explosives. There are pre-fabricated barracks, water tanks and military trucks; we saw the logos used by Russian troops deployed in Ukraine.”
Işık told us this unusual Russian activity gathered momentum late this summer, in parallel with Moscow’s deepening involvement in the Syrian civil war. He shares his photos on his Twitter account @yorukisik.
“The pace of this traffic has revved up our hobby — we almost can’t keep up with all the ships. Every day last week there was a Russian military ship in the Bosphorus. Some days two or three Russian ships went through, at different times or at the same time. For example, last Saturday one was returning to its home port of Sevastopol while another bound for the Mediterannean passed each other right here, under the Bosphorus Bridge.”
A Russian defense ministry statement cited by the US Naval Institute think tank last Thursday said the Russian ships were headed for “training activity — anti-submarine, anti-ship, air defense and search-and-rescue”.
Our correspondent Bora Bayraktar summed up: “The amateur photographers we talked to say the Russian military ship traffic in the Straits has accelerated since August. It looks highly likely that this will increase as Russia tries to build a new naval base in Syria and support President Assad’s regime.”

bth:. this site
also lists the ships and dates of passage through the Bosphorus.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bosporous Naval News is a good original source of information on Russian naval shipments to Syria

Bosphorous Naval News
seems to be the best source of actual information regarding naval shipments of munitions to Syria from Russia. It is reporting a definite step up in activity in the last month to about 5 shipments with 3 vessels.  Also cargo appears to be small arms and BTRs. Camouflage has improved in the recent shipments as evidenced by the photos shown in the Bosphotorous Naval News.