The Bedouin Ashiri tribe has joined the Syrian Army's desert war against Islamic State near Raqqa, and two plucky Russian observers decided to report from the front line. The result is a well-written and ably translated account from Komsomolskaya Pravd (authors Aleksandr Kots and Dmitriy Steshin; English translation, J. Hawk), republished yesterday by South Front.
Beginner's luck and God seem to have a played a large role in the tribe's surprising success in its first tank battle against Islamic State:
Nondescript guys are carefully climbing into an aged T-55 and take up their respective crew positions. They are clad in civilian clothes or mismatched camouflage or construction overalls. The vehicle, sorely tested by the war and long service life, reluctantly comes to life and spews a cloud of black smoke. Two days of training, and they’ll ride their tanks into battle.
Some of them have served in tank troops, with other armored vehicles, or artillery. The remainder are former drivers, tractor operators, construction workers. The Bukhamat detachment of the Ashiri tribe, which is scattered along the Euphrates River in Raqqa Province, is moving up to the front lines crossing the invisible boundary of Homs Province and heading toward ISIS “capital," Raqqa, which is only 50km distant -- though it is unlikely that distance will be covered quickly.
The militants have prepared a mobile defense, consisting of powerful fortified areas located every 500m on the road. If forced to retreat the Islamists will try to hold every square kilometer of this lifeless desert.
[...]At the end of it, the SAA with help from the Bedouin had liberated another 10 square kilometers. It's just sand and scrub but it's their country, you know?
And so it goes, kilometer by kilometer.