rsync bombs with "rsync error: syntax or usage error (code 1) at main.c(873) [Receiver=3.1.1]" if it doesn't have write permissions on the destination.
This is somewhat misleading as everything works OK with the --dry-run switch.
Platform is: Linux phenom 4.2.0-22-generic #27-Ubuntu SMP Thu Dec 17 22:57:08 UTC 2015 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
rsync version is: 3.1.1-3
I don't see that error in that scenario.