Monthly Archives: September 2016

The mistrust between Washington and Moscow portends a long war

 

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The Partition of Syria is inevitable regardless of the policy of the new US President

Original article published here:  v

French version below

By Elijah J Magnier: @EjmAlrai

The words exchanged by Russian and the US foreign ministers at the Security Council clearly indicate that each superpower country lives in a separate world with completely dissimilar objectives in Syria.

In the US Obama is astutely drawing up its strategy in Syria to divide the Levant following the path and policy of the George W. Bush administration and its mantra of “a new Middle East order”, but from a different angle. What spoils the implementation of the US policy is the arrival of Russia with all its military apparatus forcing only a delay on the inevitable partition plan of Syria.

From talking to the many contacts I enjoy among the various decision makers in Syria of all parties involved and allies of Damascus, it is clear that Russia accepts – although Damascus won’t declare it – the control over the “useful Syria” (unless unforeseen elements intervene) pushing Russia and Iran to inject innumerable ground forces ready to face any other country, especially the US, only if the aim is stopping the ongoing partition process.  The alternative would have been to accept a fait accompli and control the reconquered territory, consolidate it, freezing the military situation for many years to come.

To the details and the field:

The US and Russia agreed on a seven days cease-fire during which humanitarian convoys would be allowed into besieged areas by both the belligerents. It was also agreed that the US vetted rebel groups would detached themselves from classified terrorist groups, i.e. al-Qaeda (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), Jund al-Aqsa and “the Islamic state” (ISIS). Simultaneously, all parties around the Aleppo Castello road will pull out heavy artilleries and fighters by 1000 to 3500 meters, allowing humanitarian control under the supervision of the Russian forces. And finally, both Russia and the US agreed to form a joint operations room, exchanging intelligence on disavowed terrorist disagreed groups, carrying out coordinated attacks against these. In exchange, the Syrian Air Force will be grounded.

But what happened and why did the agreement failed?

1 – It is almost impossible to secure a seven consecutive day total cease-fire on all fronts without a breach. Al-Qaeda, excluded from the ceasefire deal, has no interest in seeing it working. Its forces, along with US vetted group of Ahrar al-Sham and Beit al-Maqdes attacked the Syrian forces south of Syria, at al Hader, supported by the Israeli Air Force. Twenty-one artillery positions were destroyed by the Israel Air Force hours before the attack along the Golan border.

2. More than 23 groups and organisations, including Jihadist groups, other so-called “moderate rebels” and US vetted and financed groups rejected the ceasefire and announced they would not separate from those designated as terrorists by their sponsors: the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Therefore, military collaboration between the US and Russia is highly unlikely in Syria any time in the near future.

3 – Washington and its allies attacked for the first time the Syrian Army forces stationed at the strategic al-Sanouf – Mount of Tharda, (facing ISIS) for the first time. The position attacked (7-8 km from the military airport) is the first line of defense protecting the Deir-ezzour airport, an umbilical cord for the military and civilians besieged in the city for a long time. This bombing resulted in: the death of 83 officers and soldiers and dozens of wounded, but above all, the loss of the Tharda II strategic position to ISIS whose forces attacked on the same day and managed to gain control. In fact, ISIS brought down a jet the day after, in a effort to support the Syrian Army ground forces in recovering this same position from ISIS. Now, the Syrian forces can only supply the force defending the city and the civilians only by helicopter and during the night.

Yes, its is true, the US recognised and officially apologised for the so-called “mistake”, said sorry and declared itself ready to “compensate the Syrian government for the losses”. This is an important step of recognition by Washington to the government of Damascus. But the question remains: why on earth did the US and coalition allies decided to offer air support, for the first time in five and a half years of war, to the besieged Syrian Army and the city of Deir-ezzour, and committing such a catastrophic strategic mistake? This question remains unanswered by the US and those members of coalition who supported the US bombing.

Nevertheless, decision-makers have a different view of the event. No-one believes the US “mistake” or story of the event. The loss of Jabal Tharda II was not followed by a correction of the mistake. The US and coalition jets did not return the next day to bomb ISIS. The real message behind the attack – as explained by my sources – is the advance of the Iraqi forces toward Jazirat al-Anbar, Baghdadi and Jazirat Hit, coming closer to their next target in ‘Ana, Rawa, in order to reach al-Qaim on the Iraqi-Syrian borders. If the Iraqi forces reached the border, ISIS would be caught between the two fires of Iraq and the Syrian forces, allowing a possible breach from al-Qaem and Albu Kamal toward Deir-ezzour. That would close any ISIS supply line from Iraq toward Raqqah, via Deir-ezzour and al-Badiyah.

Damascus forces and its allies have no intention of heading toward Raqqah, the ISIS stronghold. Those in power and on high ranking officers on the ground have the same response: “whoever wants to go to Raqqah and attack ISIS is most welcome. It is not our intention to take back Raqqah anytime soon”.

Russian, Syria and its allies strongly believe that the US is not in alliance with ISIS. Nevertheless, the Americans behave with ISIS like a shepherds with their sheep, rolling a stone towards a group off animals so as to push these towards the left or the right and force the entire group to head in the desired direction. Take the example of the first ceasefire established between Russia and the US: when the Syrian Army headed, after Palmyra, toward al-Tabaqa, three divisions of the Army were invested in the attack, closing up on ISIS and at Tabaqa airport, all this during an agreed ceasefire. Suddenly, a new front was initiated by rebels and jihadists (financed and armed by US allies in the Middle East) around Aleppo and in rural Homs, breaking this ceasefire and forcing the Army to suspend its attack. It pull out its forces and headed towards more vital fronts. ISIS was delighted and relived on that front.

Decision makers believe, rightly or wrongly, that ISIS should overpower the Syrian Army and its allies in Deir-ezzour, and take control of the city to prevent the Iraqis from supporting the Syrian regular forces and their allies. Moreover, if ISIS took control of Deir-ezzour, the US and allies would attack ISIS, with the consent of the world, and would recover Deir-ezzour and Raqqah afterwards, all this under the heading of “combatting Terrorism”. That would permit the partition of northern of Syria.

4. Russia realised that the US was trying to gain time during the second ceasefire, so as to take the glory of being the provider of “humanitarian aids” gaining political kudos for supporting the besieged civilians of Syria. Whereas Russia is looking, in the western eyes, as if it is incapable of managing the balance between the military and the political-humanitarian aspects of an ongoing war.Russia is today aware that the US wants to score points without giving anything in exchange, either on the political arena or on the ground, and is exerting no influence over its allies to split from those the US consider terrorists.

Thus, in the final stage of what was indeed perceived as a comedy and not a ceasefire, the humanitarian convoy was hit in rebel-controlled area close to Aleppo. The US managed to salve public opinion by saying sorry for the killing of 83 soldiers and officers and wounding 100 more and for offering on a golden plate a strategic position to ISIS! Russia showed exasperation and refused to play the game. Secretary John Kerry looked victorious during his speech at the UN council and everybody forgot about the allegedly mistaken, the gift to ISIS, the sudden presence of the US and coalition forces close to Deir-ezzour airport, the non-withdrawal of jihadist and rebels from the Castello Road as had been agreed. The communiqué of the 23 groups committed to distance themselves from Al-Qaeda and the jihadists and the attention was directed towards the “atrocity and inhuman bombing of a humanitarian convoy”.

Damascus allies ask the following question: “What makes Russia give the US concessions without anything in return, gaining time for rebels and jihadists to regroup? and bearing in mind that Al-Qaeda is a sporadic enemy of the US, outside of Syria.

5. According to high-ranking sources, the objective today is to control “useful Syria”. This is Latakia, Tartus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Damascus. Decision makers would accept the loss of oil and important agriculture in the north to the US and to the Kurds. There is oil at the coast and in the water opposite Latakia. Turkey is looking after its interests in the north, but most unlikely will face insurgency on the longer term. As long as Turkey respects the deal and does not approach the Syrian Army front, the situation will remain under control. Otherwise, Russia will be forced to respond to any Turkish push outside Syrian Army territory.

According to sources, Russia will not prevent the Syrian Air Force from striking its enemies and won’t be grounded (as Secretary Kerry has suggested would happen) as long as the Syrian opposition and the jihadists are in a row and a common position. It seems that Russia will not accept anymore a free of charge ceasefire and will resume the military operation around Aleppo. The Russian Kuznetsov aircraft carrier will be soon opposite the Syrian coasts. The Kremlin ordered one of its best and most advanced aircraft to spy over Syria and is ready to use its strategic Kalibr missiles in the coming round of violence expected to resume soon. Russia will use Kalibr to surprise the US and avoid informing it (which they should do according to the regulated airspace agreement) of its objective and targets. To conclude, the level of mistrust between the two superpowers has reached its highest level so far.

US Secretary of State Kerry says at the UN Security Council “Al Qaeda is our enemy”. Russia is asking: “What did you do against your enemy except supply it indirectly with weapons, allowing men and finances to reach it, and accepting that your vetted groups to join it in the same trenches?”. Damascus believes that any new US administration, whoever the next president will be, will avoid starting a direct war against Russia in Syria. The war will remain a war between proxies on both sides. Hillary Clinton, if she becomes president, understands that the Kremlin is determined to protect its interests in the Levant; and that the war in Syria concerns Russia directly because it demonstrates success or failure in the Middle East. The US will do its best to see Russia and Iran drown in Syria and will not accept that the US administration has failed to reach its goal. The only possibility is to divide Syria (like Berlin in the second World War) because nobody is allowed to win. The partition would create a northern-eastern part for the US proxies, and an western-Middle-southern part where Damascus and its allies will have to continue dealing with the jihadists and the insurgency and where a lack of stability will prevail.

Russia – who believes this is what the US is planning – is fully aware of the complexity of this war. But is it by the same token acknowledging and accepting the US’s statecraft and policy towards the jihadists in Syria? Only time will tell.

Translated by 

Published by@O_Rich_  http://stalkerzone.org/no-escaping-syrias-partition-new-american-administration/ …

French version

La partition de la Syrie est inévitable quelle que soit la politique du nouveau président américain

La méfiance entre Washington et Moscow annonce une guerre longue

Par Elijah J Magnier :

Traduction par: Prof, Olivier dulac

Les mots échangés par les ministres des affaires étrangères russe et américain au Conseil de Sécurité montrent clairement que ces deux superpuissances vivent dans des mondes séparés avec des objectifs totalement différents concernant la Syrie.

Obama dessine astucieusement sa stratégie en Syrie pour diviser le Levant selon la ligne et la politique de l’administration de George W. Bush et son mantra d’un “nouvel ordre au Moyen Orient”, mais sous un angle différent. Ce qui gêne l’application de la politique américaine est l’arrivée de la Russie avec toute sa puissance militaire, imposant seulement un délai à l’inévitable plan de partition de la Syrie.

Les multiples contacts que j’ai chez les décideurs en Syrie, chez les parties impliquées et les alliés de Damas, me rapportent que la Russie accepte – bien que Damas ne le proclame pas – le contrôle de la “Syrie utile” (à moins que des éléments imprévus interviennent poussant la Russie et l’Iran à injecter une quantité innombrables de troupes au sol prêtes à faire face à n’importe quel autre pays, en particulier les EU, dans le but d’arrêter le processus de partition en cours). L’alternative serait d’accepter le fait accompli et de contrôler les territoires reconquis, de la consolider, gelant la situation militaire pour de nombreuses années.

Les détails et le terrain :

Les EU et la Russie sont tombés d’accord sur un cessez-le-feu de sept jours pendant lequel des convois humanitaires seront autorisés par les deux belligérants à aller dans les territoires assiégés. Il a été également convenu que les groupes rebelles soutenus par les EU soient distingués des groupes « terroristes », par exemple al-Qaeda (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), Jund al-Aqsa et “l’Etat Islamique” (ISIS). En même temps, toutes les parties le long de la route d’Alep devaient reculer de 3500 mètres, permettant un cordon humanitaire sous la supervision des forces Russes. Et finalement, à la fois la Russie et les EU ont convenu de créer une chambre des opérations conjointes, échangeant des informations sur les terroristes et les groupes terroristes désavoués, projetant et réalisant les attaques contre eux. En échange de quoi l’aviation syrienne sera retenue au sol.

Mais que s’est-il passé et pourquoi l’accord a-t-il échoué ?

1 – Il est quasiment impossible d’assurer un cessez-le-feu total pendant sept jours consécutifs sur tous les fronts, sans une faille. Al-Qaeda, qui a été exclu de la délibération sur le cessez-le-feu, n’avait aucun intérêt à le voir réussir. Ses troupes, tout comme les groupes Ahrar al-Sham et Beit al-Maqdes soutenus par les EU ont attaqué les troupes syriennes au sud de la Syrie, à al Hader, avec le soutien de l’aviation israélienne. Vingt-et-une batteries d’artillerie ont été détruites par l’aviation israélienne plusieurs heures avant l’attaque le long de la frontière du Golan.

2. Plus de 23 groupes et organisations, dont des groupes djihadistes, les soi-disant “rebelles modérés” et des groupes soutenus et financés par les EU ont rejeté le cessez-le-feu et annoncé qu’ils ne se sépareraient pas de ceux désignés comme terroristes par leurs sponsors : les EU, l’Arabie Saoudite, Qatar et la Turquie. Dès lors, une collaboration militaire des EU et de la Russie devenait hautement improbable en Syrie dans un avenir proche.

3 – Washington et ses alliés ont attaqué pour la première fois l’armée syrienne stationnée sur le mont stratégique d’Athriya (faisant face à ISIS). La position attaquée était la première ligne de défense protégeant l’aéroport de Deir-ezzour, un cordon ombilical pour les civils et les militaires assiégés dans la ville depuis longtemps. Le bombardement a tué 83 officiers et soldats et fait des dizaines de blessés, mais surtout, a conduit à la perte d’une position stratégique face à ISIS, lequel a attaqué le jour même et a réussi à en prendre le contrôle. En fait, le lendemain ISIS a abattu un avion qui tentait de soutenir les forces syriennes terrestres qui tentaient de reprendre le contrôle de cette position. Maintenant, les forces syriennes ne peuvent approvisionner que par hélicoptère et la nuit les forces qui défendent la ville ainsi que les civils.

Certes, il est vrai que les EU ont amende honorable et présenté officiellement leurs excuses pour ce qu’ils ont appelé “une erreur”, demandant pardon et se disant prêts à “compenser le gouvernement syrien de ses pertes ». C’est un pas important vers une reconnaissance par Washington du gouvernement de Damas. Mais il reste une question: c’est la première fois en 5 ans et demi de guerre les EU et la coalition alliée ait décidé d’offrir un soutien aérien à l’armée syrienne assiégée de la ville de Deir-ezzour, commettant à cette occasion une erreur stratégique si catastrophique? Cette question reste sans réponse de la part des EU et des membres de la coalition qui ont participé au bombardement américain.

Quoi qu’il en soit, les décideurs ont une vision différente de cet épisode. Personne ne croit à cette histoire d’ “erreur”. La perte du Jabal Tharda n’a pas été suivie d’une correction de l’erreur. Les avions américains et de la coalition ne sont pas revenus le lendemain bombarder ISIS. Le vrai message derrière cette attaque – comme l’ont expliqué mes sources – est l’avance des forces Irakiens vers Jazirat al-Anbar, Baghdadi et Jazirat Hit, s’approchant de leur prochaine cible in ‘Ana, Rawa, pour arriver à al-Qaim sur la frontière Irak-Syrie. Si les forces irakiennes arrivent à la frontière, ISIS sera pris entre les 2 feux des forces irakiennes et syriennes, rendant possible une brèche entre al-Qaem et Albu Kamal en direction de Deir-ezzour. Ceci couperait les voies d’approvisionnement d’ISIS depuis l’Iraq vers Raqqah, via Deir-ezzour et al-Badiyah.

Les forces de Damas et ses alliés n’ont aucunement l’intention d’aller à Raqqah, la base d’ISIS. Les officiers supérieurs au sol et les hommes au pouvoir donnent la même réponse : quiconque prétend aller attaquer ISIS est bienvenu. Mais il n’est pas question que nous reprenions Raqqah dans un proche avenir”.

Les Russes, la Syrie et leurs alliés sont convaincus que les EU ne sont pas alliés à ISIS. Pourtant, les Américains se comportement à l’égard d’ISIS comme un berger avec ses moutons, faisant rouler une pierre vers les bêtes pour les pousser vers la gauche ou la droite, forçant tout le groupe à aller dans la direction souhaitée. Regardez par exemple le premier cessez-le-feu établi entre la Russie et les EU: quand, après Palmyre l’armée syrienne s’est dirigée vers al-Tabaqa, trois divisions ont été consacrées à l’attaque, enfermant ISIS à l’aéroport de Tabaqa, tout ceci durant le cessez-le-feu. Soudain, un nouveau front a été ouvert par les rebelles et les djihadistes autour d’Alep et la région de Homs, rompant le cessez-le-feu et forçant l’armée à interrompre son attaque. Elle se replia et partit vers des fronts plus vitaux.

Les décideurs croient, à tort ou à raison, qu’ISIS pourrait battre l’armée syrienne et ses alliés à Deir-ezzour et prendre la ville pour empêcher les Irakiens d’aider les forces syriennes régulières et leurs alliés. En outre, si ISIS prenait Deir-ezzour, les EU et leurs alliés attaqueraient ISIS, avec l’accord du monde entier, et reprendraient Deir-ezzour et Raqqah par la suite, tout cela sous l’étendard de “combattants contre le terrorisme”. Ceci permettrait la partition du nord de la Syrie.

4. La Russie s’est rendue compte que les EU cherchaient à gagner du temps. Durant le second cessez-le-feu, de façon à recueillir la gloire d’avoir fourni une “aide humanitaire” se glorifiant d’avoir soutenu de civils assiégés de Syrie. Tandis qu’aux yeux de l’occident la Russie apparait incapable de trouver un équilibre entre les aspects militaires et politico-humanitaires de cette guerre. La Russie est maintenant bien consciente que les EU veulent engranger des points sans rien céder en échange, ni au plan politique ni au sol, et n’exerce aucune pression sur ses alliés pour les séparer de ceux que les EU considèrent comme des terroristes.

Par conséquent, à la fin de ce qui apparait comme une comédie et non un cessez-le-feu, le convoi humanitaire a été frappé dans le territoire contrôlé par les rebelles près d’Alep. Les EU ont réussi à sauvegarder l’opinion publique en présentant ses excuses pour la mort de 83 soldats et officiers sans compter les 100 autres blessés, et mentionner qu’ils ont offert une position stratégique à ISIS sur un plateau d’argent! La Russie s’est montrée exaspérée et a refusé de jouer à ce jeu. Le ministre des affaires étrangères John Kerry est apparu comme gagnant lors de son discours au conseil des Nations Unies et tout le monde a oublié la soi-disant erreur qui n’était qu’un cadeau à ISIS, la soudaine présence des forces américaines et de la coalition près de l’aéroport de Deir-ezzour, le non-retrait des djihadistes et des rebelles de la route Castello Road comme il avait été convenu. Le communiqué des 23 groupes cherchait à montrer qu’ils se tenaient à distance d’Al-Qaeda et des djihadistes, et l’attention a été attirée sur les “atrocités et le bombardement inhumain d’un convoi humanitaire”.

Les alliés de Damas posent la question suivante: “Pourquoi la Russie fait-elle des concessions aux EU sans rien en retour, permettant aux rebelles et aux djihadistes de gagner du temps et se regrouper? ». Ils ont à l’esprit qu’Al-Qaeda n’est qu’occasionnellement un ennemi des EU, et en-dehors de la Syrie.

5. Selon des sources tout à fait fiables, l’objectif est de contrôler “la Syrie utile”. C’est à dire Lattaquié, Tartus, Homs, Hama, Alep et Damas. Les décideurs sont prêts à accepter d’abandonner aux EU et aux Kurdes du pétrole et d’importantes zones agricoles dans le nord. Il y a du pétrole en bord de mer et en mer au large de Lattaquié. La Turquie se charge de ses propres intérêts dans le nord, mais il est improbable qu’elle soit confrontée à une insurrection à plus long terme. Du moment que la Turquie respecte ses engagements et ne s’approche pas du front de l’armée syrienne, la situation restera sous contrôle. Sinon, la Russie devra faire face à toute avance turque en-dehors du territoire de l’armée syrienne.

Selon mes sources, la Russie n’empêchera pas l’aviation syrienne de frapper ses ennemis et ne sera pas détruite (comme le suggérait le Secrétaire d’Etat Kerry) tant que l’opposition syrienne et les djihadistes sont sur la même ligne et gardent une position commune. Il semble que la Russie n’acceptera plus un cessez-le-feu “gratis” et reprendra ses opérations militaires autour d’Alep. Le porte-avions russe Kuznetsov sera bientôt au large des côtes syriennes. Le Kremlin a donné l’ordre de confier le survol de la Syrie à son meilleur avion espion et est prêt à utiliser ses missiles stratégiques Kalibr dans le cadre du cycle de violence qui semble devoir débuter très prochainement. La Russie utilisera Kalibr pour surprendre les EU et se passera bien de les informer par avance des cibles choisies (ce qu’ils devraient pourtant faire dans le cadre des accords de régulation de l’espace aérien). Pour conclure, la méfiance entre les deux superpuissances est arrivée à des niveaux jamais atteints.

Le secrétaire d’état Kerry affirme devant le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies “Al Qaeda est notre ennemi”. La Russie demande: “qu’avez-vous fait à vos ennemis sinon leur fournir indirectement des armes, leur faciliter financement et recrutement, et accepter que les groupes que vous soutenez se retrouvent avec eux dans les mêmes tranchées?”. Damas pense que quelle que soit la future administration américaine, quel que soit le prochain Président, il évitera de commencer une guerre ouverte avec la Russie en Syrie. Des deux côtés la guerre restera une guerre par procuration. Hillary Clinton, si elle devient Présidente, comprend que le Kremlin est décidé à protéger ses intérêts au Proche Orient; et que la guerre en Syrie concerne directement la Russie parce qu’elle met au grand jour ses succès et ses échecs au Moyen Orient. Les EU feront tout leur possible pour que la Russie et l’Iran se noient en Syrie et n’accepteront pas que l’administration américaine n’ait pas réussi à atteindre son but. La seule possibilité est de partager la Syrie (comme Berlin après la seconde guerre mondiale) parce que personne ne peut gagner. La partition créerait une partie ouest pour les proxies américains, tandis que dans la partie est Damas et ses alliés devront continuer à combattre les djihadistes et l’insurrection et il persistera une instabilité.

La Russie – qui croit que ceci est ce que les EU ont prévu – est au fait de la complexité de cette guerre. Mais faut-il pour autant penser que leur politique à l’encontre des djihadistes en Syrie est habile? Seul le temps saura le dire.

 

 

The US-Russia deal: Putin applies a Matryoshka-like policy in Syria

images

. The US-Russia deal: Putin applies a Matryoshka-like policy in Syria

. Did Russia, Iran and Hezbollah fail in Aleppo, showing their limitations?

. Russia expected Hezbollah to complete the siege of Aleppo as a bargaining tool for further negotiation

 

Published here: ‪http://alrai.li/9z5jkp9 ‪ via @AlraiMediaGroup

Key words: US, USA, U.S., Russia, Syria.

By Elijah J. Magnier: @EjmAlrai

The Russian – American agreement over the city of Aleppo, is completed…no it is not completed… it will be completed.

Both superpower countries agreed on several issues, but above all to allow humanitarian convoys in the city (and other parts of Syria), and to freeze the war situation in Aleppo, defining demarcation lines between all belligerents, thus creating a potential springboard model to other Syrian regions.

The US suggested demilitarising the city, on both rebel and government forces sides, but Russia rejected the proposition, also disapproved of by Russia’s allies (Damascus and Tehran). One of question remains: how will the US impose any decision on al-Qaida and jihadist groups who are fighting in the area (along with other so called “moderate rebels” and vetted by the US).

At any rate, if and when the deal is concluded, all military efforts will be dedicated to hitting the “Islamic State” group (acronym ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) and Jabhat al-Nusra – Al Qaida in Syria (as previously named) and all jihadist factions that refuse to join the political process.

However, the two parties do require more time to reach agreement over Aleppo: America wants to make sure that Russia will not hit its allies and other rebels, and Russia has agreed to stop all attacks against US vetted groups as part of the deal. After all, Russia wants – as its allies complete once more the siege around Aleppo – to open a safe humanitarian corridor under its supervision and UN direct involvement. Is this a victory for Russia or the US?

On 15 August, I wrote in a special report on AL RAI: “Obama has the upper hand over Iran and Russia in Syria and Iraq, and without deploying major ground forces”. It turns out that the Kremlin’s Middle East foreign policy is structured on “Matryoshka” line: 51 wooden toys, one inside the other! Even as the media were claiming that Russia was sinking into the Syrian quagmire, (“have achieved little to recover Aleppo”), President Vladimir Putin Air force was by necessity embracing a peace deal with Turkey, turning the course of the events in Syria from starboard to port. This significantly altered the course of this complex Syrian war, stopping the process of dividing Syria, and supporting a low-casualty recovery of the military academies around Aleppo so as to close once more the circle breached a few weeks ago.

By striking a deal with Turkey, Putin has reaped the benefits from a situation where the allies of yesterday (i.e. US vetted rebels Free Syrian Army groups considered also pro-Turkey) now fight each other (Syrian Democratic Force supported by the US), and the same force supported by the US Air Force in the north of Syria, SDF-YPG, split and a few hundred militants have left the Kurds to join Turkey. The Russian forces stationed in Syria support the security around Damascus and contribute to mediating a cease-fire between over 48 rebel groups and the Syrian government. It turned out that Putin played last-minute “Russian Roulette”, dragging the US to the negotiation table just as the situation in Syria was about to go out of the US control, but without restoring to a Rambo-like show of power- and with minimum cost.

In September 2015, Russian Air Force began bombing jihadists and rebels in rural Latakia and Jabal Kurds to secure the control of Damascus and its allies in many areas. Russia supported also the recovery of the strategic cities of Homs, Aleppo, rural Damascus, and Deraa, south of Syria. The media and analysts attacked Russia at that time saying it “did not achieve any significant progress”. Even President Obama said “Moscow’s action will lead it into a quagmire” and that “its military intervention won’t work”. Russia was further accused of being a “novice in the Middle east policies, confronted with America’s long diplomatic experience in this hot spot of the World”.

They were wrong: after six months of supporting ground troops to control over 10.000 sq. km. of territory previously occupied by jihadists and rebels, the US called for a cease-fire that was welcomed by Moscow and Damascus. Iran was unhappy, arguing that the jihadists and rebels were in retreat and that therefore the military operation should not stop until these were defeated.

Regardless of its allies’ position, Moscow withdrew a large number of aircraft from the Syrian coastal military base of Hamymeen amid exclamations from Iran and President Bashar al-Assad related to the timing (before a robust cease-fire had been agreed) of withdrawal. Others argued that Russia was pulling out its jets due to “the high financial cost”.

Not long afterwards, with the negotiations stalled in Geneva between the US and Russia, the Russian jets began bombing again, securing more land and closing the circle around eastern Aleppo for the first time since the war started.

However this circle was broken again after a few weeks: thousands of Jihadists, supported by US vetted rebel groups, took control with little resistance of the largest four military academies, which were equipped with huge warehouses full of ammunition. Over 1200 Syrian Army officers and soldiers guarded these and had a large space around the academies that should permit an easy defence.

The fall of the academies came at a time when Moscow was about to impose its terms on the US and the United Nations for establishing a humanitarian corridor into the besieged part of Aleppo and into other northern cities, and to engage in a long sustainable cease-fire. Freezing the on-going war now appears logical: most belligerents are convinced that a military solution to the war in Syria is not longer a viable option.

The real problem does not lie in the Russian military-political performance nor in the diplomatic capabilities of its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when facing his US counterpart John Kerry. The problem lies in Damascus, its soldiers and its allies.

Last March, Russia withdrew part of its air force because of the lack of capability of the allied forces on the ground to keep up with and Air Force carpet-bombing against jihadists and rebels in various cities simultaneously. The Syrian army has a special unit led by Colonel Suhail Al-Hassan – known as the “Tiger Forces” – covering the whole military map and fighting on several fronts; because the regular units within the Syrian army lack the fighting spirit to face their enemy or to hold a conquered position. Damascus’s allies, i.e. Iran and its proxies, have an attacking force but this is not a static one to be positioned to defend cities in case of attack. This attacking force is made up of around 12000 Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Iranians, but the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters alone exceed this number. Yet, distributed over the entire Syrian military map (North, north-east, west Aleppo, rural Damascus, Qalamoun, Zabadani and Daraa), this total represents a relatively small number of fighters. Hezbollah is changing tactics in all battles, excepting Aleppo. It is no longer sending troops to take control of a city or key positions when this implies a lack of consideration for its own casualties. Therefore, if the Syrian Army is unwilling or unable to hold on to a position its role weakens the whole case. This is what Russia is fully aware off, and is one of the main reasons why Putin looked for alternative support where common interests are present: Turkey.

The Russian President took out of his pocket the first doll of Matryoshka when he assisted the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before and during the first hours of the failed coup d’état, being rewarded in exchange with a radical policy change by Turkey in Syria. Erdogan called back his numerous proxies from around Aleppo to fight the Kurds and recover land from the “Islamic State” (acronym ISIS/ISIS), leaving the city to the jihadists and few small groups. Turkey directed its guns toward the allies of the US, the Kurdish forces supported by the US Air Force, in order to prevent these from creating a Kurdish state. Putin supported Erdogan, he who ordered the shooting down the Russian Jet Su-24 . Putin played “Russian roulette” when supporting his declared enemy even when determined to hit him back by bringing the S-400 to Syria and giving orders at that time to shoot down any Turkish jet on the Turkish-Syrian borders.

Russia grabbed its opportunity when Erdogan launched his indirect accusation against the US for being knowledgeable about the failed coup. Putin, with his risky move, managed to secure the survival of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and gave himself a serious advantage over the US in the Syrian war. The result is surprising: Turkey accepts Assad and is no longer asking to remove him as a pre-condition to any negotiation. Moreover, Turkey shot down the Kurdish dream of establishing a State, preventing the partition of Syria starting form the north.

On the other hand, both Moscow and Damascus accept dealing with the “moderate rebels”, including Ahrar al-Sham, as long as these keep their distance from al-Qaida, ex-Jabhat al Nusra. Russia and Syria are willing to go along with a freeze on all fronts and to stop targeting the Syrian rebels (excluding the jihadists). ISIS and ex-Nusra are offered up on the altar of the US-Russia understanding, once this is concluded.

This is the agreement prepared by the major powers on Syria, which may allow the possibility of achieving a gradual cessation of hostilities in Syria – and put an end to the jihadists, unwilling to board the conciliation train.

But what if Obama does not play in the Russian game? Putin seems have pulled out his first Matryushka doll by bombing the enemies of Damascus last September. He pulled out the second smaller doll when accepting a cease-fire. Then he pulled out a third doll by helping to besiege Aleppo the first time. The fourth was skilfully brought out when he supported Erdogan and approved –Putin before Obama – a safe passage for the Turkish troops into Syria. What is the content that the 47 other smaller dolls could be in case the wind should blow the ship Syria in an undesirable direction?

 

Read also: https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/putin-and-erdogan-have-agreed-on-a-restricted-road-map-in-syria-the-kurds-and-nusra-will-be-the-main-losers/