By Abdul Ruff
American efforts to support the opposition by arming them directly and through Arab nations have brought Russian forces there and now Russia is firmly footed in Syria, influencing Arab nations and Israel. With which it coordinates certain terror operations.
Syria is unofficially divided and destabilized, thousands of Muslims have been murdered by all “stake holders” in Syria, both Muslim and non-Muslim as well as anti-Muslim forces – objective of global anti-Islamism and Islamophobia.
Fall of Aleppo
Shift in Russian policy for West Asia by joining the fighting foreign forces led by USA, destabilizing Sunni Syria misruled by a Shiite president, has worked miracles for president Putin as Russia is seen as a formidable force in the world to take on US militarism..
Syrian Aleppo has finally fallen to Russian forces favoring President Assad.
As Aleppo rebels are defeated in an asymmetric fight, and UN and Western leaders prove unable to protect civilians from what they expect to be retribution by the regime, comparisons abound to the Russian pounding of the Chechen capital, Grozny, in the 1990s, and the Serbs’ slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995.
Russian intervention in Syrian war has now almost ensured, thanks to president Putin’s firm commitment to dictatorial dynastic misrule of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad that he can just enjoy his remaining life without even holding any referendum, let alone elections, to continue his misrule and claim legitimacy for presidency for the rest of his life.
Apparently, for the Arab nations and Iran, fear of America would soon be the fact of the past as the ongoing Russian war maneuverings in Syria targeting Muslims in the Arab nation may have impressed the rulers in the region as well as Israel looking around with its long bloodthirsty tongue for Islamic blood, and, more importantly, Russian effort is helping Assad stay in power against the will of the world’s super power USA. Having complicated the conflictual situation in Syria, Americans do not seem to have clues to end the war and possibly looking to the Kremlin to find some solution, even if not a long term one.
Ending wars of course is not the US idea.
Syrian leader Assad’s key allies Russia and Iran could claim that the victory over rebels in Syria’s second city Aleppo advances their standing in the region in the globally.
The bombardment of rebel-held east Aleppo by Russian forces, the Syrian army, and Iran-led militias has been unprecedented in its intensity, even by the standards of Syria’s brutal six-year civil war. The blitz has also been effective at removing rebels – some of them backed by the USA, others Islamic jihadists – from their most significant urban stronghold in Syria.
Russia dramatically stepped up its intervention in September last year, its first projection of hard power beyond former Soviet borders in decades, reportedly at Iran’s request. Soon after, Obama said “it just won’t work,” and predicted that Moscow would get stuck in a “quagmire.”
President Putin, however, has pointed to Western failures in Syria, and last week told the NTV channel that “the world balance is gradually being restored. The attempts to create a unipolar world failed.”
So Russia seems to have outsmarted its arch rival USA in Syrian war but with no quick end to the conflict, they are likely to push for a political solution if they sincerely seek peace in West Asia.
With Russia maintaining upper handling war operations in Syria, Arab nations could now rely on Russian terror goods instead of depending on costly US weaponry.
For Iran, that means expanding the influence of its “axis of resistance” against the USA, Israel, and their allies. For Russia, it marks a critical step toward restoring past influence, even as American power projection and willingness to engage in the Middle East declines. “This is what really matters to Iran and Russia, that the political, geo-strategic project of the anti-Assad and anti-Iranian position has failed, and it has been buried in the Aleppo rubble,” says a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics who has studied the history of ISIS. “Syria really could be a signpost for the emergence of a new international system.”
Iran has supported Assad from the start with advisers – losing numerous high-ranking officers along the way – and mobilized the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah. It has also marshaled thousands of Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Pakistan to fight in Syria.
Few predict that the departure of rebel forces from Aleppo means the end of the Syrian war, which will continue as a guerrilla fight on many other fronts. And analysts say there are limiting factors to the current ascending influence of Iran and Russia. The brief cease-fire that fell apart did so amid wrangling between Russia and Iran about how and whether rebel fighters – all of them considered “terrorists” by pro-Assad forces – and tens of thousands of trapped civilians could be evacuated from the remaining sliver of ground they control.
The Assad “victory” in Aleppo has also been dented by Islamic State (IS) fighters’ recent recapture of Palmyra, the ancient city held and damaged by IS earlier in the war that was reclaimed by Assad forces with great fanfare last spring. “There was big hope that this victory in Aleppo would shatter the morale of the Syrian opposition, and it would begin to crack, and there would be serious defections,” says a defense columnist for Novaya Gazeta in Moscow.
Iran faces its own challenges, not least because of uncertainty about how a new government under President Donald Trump may improve ties with Russia at Iran’s expense. So it, too, is inclined to seek a political solution. The perception in Tehran is there is no military ending in Syria.
In other words, since Assad has won the nasty battle and would stay forever, it is a good time to go for a negotiated solution, because from a position of strength it is easier to convince Assad to give concessions, rather than a position of weakness. Some conservative factions in Iran revel in the Aleppo victory of “resistance,” that view “is not going to be shared universally. Iranian forces are also overstretched. We know there is no light at the end of the tunnel. “Any tactical closeness of Russia and the US may hurt Iran, and so their preference would be to quickly turn that victory into a negotiated solution.
That is to say if USA, Russia and Syria think seriously about ending war and rebuild the economy of Syria and strengthen Mideastern politics and economy.
However, even after seizing all of Aleppo, Assad still controls only one-third of the country. Russia and Iran therefore see the war in Syria as continuing, and are likely to press for a political solution to the conflict.
President Assad is celebrating his most significant battlefield victory so far, even though Iran-Russia squabbling interrupted what was supposed to be a final cease-fire, and images showed block after block of pulverized neighborhoods – punctuated by terrified citizens’ please on social media “save Aleppo.”
Assad told Russian television that liberating Aleppo doesn’t end with liberating the city itself, it needs to be secured on the outside. The next target, he said, “depends on which city contains the largest number of terrorists.” But the strategic reverberations of Aleppo’s fall reach far beyond Syria’s second city and signify a retooling of power dynamics in the Middle East.
It is here that Russia and Iran invested military power and orchestrated an outcome they desired, preserving the Assad regime and preventing a takeover by USA or ISIS and even greater chaos. At the same time, they defeated the half-hearted effort pursued by anti-Islamic USA and its allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to remove Assad by backing rebel groups.
There was a triumphant tone in Iran, as well. “Resistance paid off; the horns of America and House of Saud broken,” ran one headline in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper. “The liberation of Aleppo is the defeat of all political, military and arrogant powers in one spot of the Muslim world, where the flag of resistance has been hoisted,” declared Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The human cost continues to grow, with the fight for Aleppo and its years of regime barrel bombing in the city contributing heavily to the war’s death toll of some 470,000. Among reports of atrocities on both sides, the UN said that 82 civilians had been killed by pro-Assad troops as well. Heavy shelling of the city resumed with the collapse of a Russia-announced deal for the departure of rebel fighters. n“For Aleppo they gathered everything they could. Hezbollah brought in two fresh brigades.… The Russians organized a Grozny-type very heavy barrage that worked. But at the same time, the Syrian second-rate infantry was overrun in Palmyra, caches of weapons were seized, intervened in the morale-crushing effect of Aleppo.
Yet as Russia stepped up its intervention in Syria, the quagmire scenario grows, along with the risks. Russia waited a bit to launch the final hit on Aleppo. An official from the Kremlin had explained in May that it will be a bloodbath in Aleppo and Russia had to make a serious political decision. As the extent of that bloodbath sinks into the Sunni Muslim world, there can also be repercussions over murdering Sunnis in Syria. There is none indeed to shed tears over the genocides of Muslims anywhere in the world, including Syria or Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Millions have been slaughtered by fascist forces led by USA and EU and supported by Israel and its state terror ally India.
Another limit may be the cost for Russia, which one general recently said has shipped 700,000 tons of terror goods like military equipment and weaponry to Syria via the Bosporus waterway in Turkey. The problem is how long Russia can maintain such a policy, when it runs out of resources with Western sanctions remain in place and notwithstanding Russian efforts to end or at least ease they refuse to end the economic punishment of the Kremlin. And that is a serious burden on the Russian navy and the Russian budget. There is also the problem of Russian morale here just of American prestige.
Russia’s experience in other conflicts, therefore, is behind its push for a political settlement.
The Syrian army is thinly spread and dispersed in many areas. Assad can never impose his centralized control on all of Syria anymore. In fact, what we see today as a significant military gain for Assad, could, experts say, easily mutate in a year or so into Afghanistan of the 1990s. And Russia knows this.
Without a political settlement, Syria will remain a battlefield for many years to come.
What is Russia’s goal in Syria?
Hard pressed by its economic sanctions, Russia with its intervention in Syria has clearly challenged the imperialist unilateralism, any way and under President Trump no more such military misadventures could be expected. President Obama made a decision not to involve, not to entangle, not to invest major political and military capital in the Middle East. “It’s not the lack of capability; it’s the lack of will”. The frequent WH statements about ending US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no desire to start new ones is encouraging. In contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a strategic investment, and so far the returns are excellent.
A year ago the Kremlin appeared to be stepping up its role in the Syrian crisis, possibly laying the groundwork for a new strategy against ISIS in the region. In order to achieve meaningful results on the ground, Russia would need to send thousands of well-trained troops to Syria as well as a significant amount of military equipment. Presently there are well less than one thousand of Russian personnel operating in the country, and judging by recent images of Russian landing ships crossing the Bosphorus, trucks and armored personnel carriers. The news of Russian troops appearing across Syria has appeared in numerous media outlets around the world in recent days.
The financial burden of engaging in fighting in order to help Assad’s army regain ground without any guarantee would be extremely heavy on the Russian budget. Some suggested that just as in previous years, Russian specialists are merely training Syrian President Assad’s army to use Russian equipment that Moscow keeps sending to Syria, while others went as far as to suggest that newly-arrived Russians are fighting on the front lines alongside the Syrian army.
Only a few months ago, reports suggested that Russia could have been changing its Syria strategy and might abandon Assad. Russia even withdrew its diplomatic staff from Damascus and stopped honoring its agreement with Syria to maintain Russian-made fighter jets. But now there is no denial that in recent months Russia has slightly intensified arms deliveries to the Assad government. In fact, the latest data shows that in the first 8 months of 2015 Russian southbound landing crafts passed the Bosphorus 39 times, compared to 36 times in the same period of 2014.
After Ukraine, Moscow can’t afford another major deployment of troops, both financially and politically especially with western sanctions in place. Moscow knows the price of such a policy all too well. The US reaction to initial reports of Russia boosting its presence in Syria was quite harsh. White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested that Russia’s involvement would lead to an escalation in the conflict and even to direct confrontation with the coalition taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS). Direct involvement in this crisis is also risky due to Western sanctions that theoretically could be toughened over Syria.
Russia and Syria reactivated the 1980 “friendship” treaty that sees Moscow taking over the Latakia air base. Russia has reportedly delivered its newest BTR-82A armored personnel carriers (APCs), Ural trucks and shipments of firearms to the Syrian government. It has also allegedly started assembling prefabricated buildings for 1,000 military specialists in Latakia to establish a broad anti-ISIS coalition. Russia has been continuously delivering cargo to Syria, both humanitarian and military. As well, Russia could be setting up a mobile air traffic control unit.
Are Russian forces really fighting for Assad? Vladimir Putin’s intentions with regards to Syria are both domestic and foreign, particularly . Despite reports claiming that Russian troops were seen taking part in action in Syria, engaging in direct fighting is off the table for the Kremlin, at least for now. Probably the most important reason why Russia would think twice before sending its troops into battle in Syria is that it would certainly be used for PR purposes in Russia’s North Caucasus by ISIS to recruit new Russian-speaking fighters. But it would be even more detrimental to the Kremlin if ISIS captured a Russian soldier in Syria whose brutal execution would set large groups of Russians against the Kremlin’s irresponsible strategy.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Moscow continues to provide military equipment per previously signed contracts; in addition, Moscow continues to send Russian military specialists to train the Syrian army to use this equipment. Some reports suggest that most equipment that Russia delivers to Syria these days is intended for the military base in Latakia.
By increasing its military presence in Syria, Russia may also be raising the ante in the ongoing negotiating process with the Assad government. So much so, now Western governments would have to deal with Russia instead of Assad regarding Syrian future or military deals. .
The big question now is whether the USA under Trump will continue to push Europe to hold Russia accountable — something that is currently in doubt, given President-elect Donald Trump’s open admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his selection of Russia-friendly Exxon Mobil boss Rex Tillerson for very important post of secretary of state. President-elect Donald Trump’s Russian sympathies have raised the possibility of a shift in US foreign policy vis-a-vis Moscow.
The devastation in Aleppo and the rollover of sanctions against Russia was part of the EU summit agenda on December 15. While the summit ultimately sent a strong message to Moscow about the EU’s willingness to extend sanctions and support Ukraine, in reality EU foreign policy towards Russia is predicated on what happens next in terms of US foreign policy and the ongoing political maneuverings in Syria. European Union leaders recently decided in Brussels to extend sanctions against Russia until July –sanctions that were imposed after the annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014
The moot question is will the anti-Islamic nations , condign Arab countries, leave Syria even without going for the rebuild costly operations from Syrian resources by dividing the construction-destruction works among all of them, and China and Israel- the anti-Islamic nations waiting for orders?
Clearly Russia has firmly stay put in West Asia including Mideast and the Sunni Gulf states are already singing military deals with Moscow, pushing the US super power, the traditional shareholder in the region, to sideways.
Russia’s expanded role in Syria is yielding some benefits. Moscow is being courted by Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, and is rebuilding ties with Turkey and Egypt – all of them traditional US allies. Palestinian leaders have also requested Putin’s help in convincing arrogant fanatic Israeli PM B. Netanyahu to resume peace talks – a role long played by Washington. Israel just wants bogus talks and it abruptly cancels by putting conditions, difficult for the Palestinians to accept.