After over six months of Russian direct military intervention in Syrian War President of Russian Federation V. Putin ordered Russian troops to partially withdraw from Syria.
It was received as a surprise in the Western media especially that Russian involvement dramatically changed momentum of this war to Syrian advantage and media opened up to vast speculation about why Russia decided to limits her involvement while regained military momentum on the battlefield against enemies. Is it prohibitive cost of the operation, unreported losses or western or internal political pressure on Putin? They wondered.
Below I will examine Russian accomplishments, likely reasons for withdrawal and whether or not it was premature. I will also examine what are political ramification of this move in context of the Syrian war and peace efforts as well as in context Russian strategic geopolitical interests in the region and impact on Assad regime and people of Syria.
As a counter point for this discussion I used a comprehensive but a bit one-sided post summarizing last six months of Russian intervention published on a website Novorossia Today http://novorossia.today/z-tarcza-czy-na-tarczy/
What did Russians accomplish according to Novorossia Today website? [Google Translated ] Part 1.
Firstly they saved his ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Russians were entering into action when the opposition sponsored from outside and the terrorists armed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United States brought the government forces of President Assad to the brink of collapse. In summer 2015 the government army retreated under the pressure from ANF and ISIL fighters on every front and Syria faced the prospect of “failed state” on the model of Libya. Western commentators were predicting imminent death in disgrace Bashar Assad a fate similar to the Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Syrian oil reserves were in the hands of the Islamic State and through areas controlled by ANF (Syrian Al-Qaeda) convoys of tankers move stolen crude oil to Turkish ports. The Turkish establishment drew from this theft enormous profits by exporting robbed Syrian crude oil to refineries of major corporations including those in the EU. In return, the Turks supplied terrorists with advanced weapons including artillery and antitank missiles. The Turkish air force often bombed positions of the Syrian army and were shooting down Syrian aircraft trying to operate near the borders with Turkey.
However the above is only partially true. The fact is that worse crisis for Assad regime was in late 2013 and 2014 when series of assassination attempt have been made against President Bashar al-Assad by traitors, CIA agents in midst of his own regime, killing hundreds of high ranked military, government officials and Baa’th party politicians, while key losses of military logistics system and larger military death toll put Assad regime on the brink of NATO invasion under later disproved accusation of genocide, and usage of chemical weapons again population.
After Russians, under US pressure acquiesced to orderly Assad departure in 2012 or 2013, unsure whether or not he would, be able to go on, under assault from well armed ANF and later FSA partly metastasized into ISIL with UAE, Saudis supports, Assad asked Syrian people for a mandate to continue the war and called for elections. Syrian people in more or less fair wartime elections unequivocally gave him this mandate in June 2014.
Having support from the people Assad immediately began heavy lobbying in Russia and Iran for direct military assistance on large-scale which he obtained from Hezbollah the same year and hence first important battlefield victories began in the areas along Damascus-Beirut road and later in more areas around Lebanon border. That was what opened Syrian trade routes and secured Damascus-Latakia road critical due to logistics and military movements.
While Russia effectively blocked UNSC resolutions that would effectively authorize NATO invasion of Syria and later blocked US unilateral attack on Syria by pushing Assad to give up his old and militarily useless chemical weapons, Putin refused to assist Syrian military directly with supplies of new weapons or equipment until early 2015 when Assad regime had already been marginally stabilized via support from Iran and according to advice by IRG withdrew from certain positions to consolidate the frontlines and gave up efforts to hold on to some areas with lass strategic value, all interpreted by the west as a sign of weakness instead of strength.
However, as a surprise to the west Assad having renewed mandate to continue the war to defend his nation, it did not result with more terror against Syrians who betrayed him but did the opposite. He commenced a reconciliation process including general amnesty and series local ceasefire agreements with Syrian opposition including FSA and tribal leaders who supported ANF, FSA and later ISIL, mainly for benefited of local civilian population who were allowed to cross frontlines for economic reason and bring supplies and medical help in order to avoid suffering and starvation.
This offensive of peace and reconciliation was first Assad offensive he succeeded in since 2011. But he had something else in his mind namely re-brand the war as foreign aggression war and not rebellion against his regime.
The growth of ISIL cancer from 2013 and its abhorrent medieval religious regime, alien to Syrian secularist citizen made such a re-branding possible and even plausible for those who originally opposed Assad.
Since 2014 general amnesty for Syrian citizen rebels, national reconciliation and de-syrialization of the rebel forces which more and more relied on foreign fighters from Europe, Russia, Iraq, central Asia and GCC countries and less on Syrian citizen which gave Assad huge propaganda advantage in 2014 and 2015. Also ISIL’s and its on and off western supported ally, the FSA and umbrella groups, by murdering and mayhem perpetrated on fellow Muslims, most of them Syrians and Iraqis, caused outrage and dramatic shift of attitudes among those original political activists of Syrian Arab spring of 2011 against the US, NATO sponsored FSA that ceased to be a legitimate representative of the protesters of abuses of Assad regime who demonstrated in the street of Daara in 2011.
Those developments were critical and cannot be underestimated or ignored when trying to understand current situation in Syria. At this moment Assad secured even if temporarily his legitimacy even in eyes of his staunch political enemies and even in eyes of some FSA commanders who expressed regret that they chose militant path and are in part responsible for destruction of the country and unleashing evils of ISIL terror upon fellow Syrian people.
In summer of 2015 after US instigated Beirut Spring failed to cut off Assad regime financing lifeline, when Assad was pleading with Russians to let him defend his nation, rebuilt and modernize his military and most of all air-force he was already in much stronger position and not on a brink of collapse and that’s why this time Russians heed the call Assad was making from before 2014, realizing that he has resolve and support of Syrian people to defeat foreign aggression. It was not as much as romantic decision of supporting a friendly regime but elaborated calculated move dictated by solemn recognition of reality on the ground and geopolitical context of the potential Russian involvement.
Novorossia Today continues:
Within six months the [frontline] situation has changed dramatically. Syrian government troops passed to the counteroffensive, recovering more than 10 thousand. sq. km area and 400 villages. The potential terrorists has been considerably reduced, because the Russians have eliminated them at least 25 000 terrorists dead, including approx. 2,000 [recruited] in the area of the former USSR [and Russian proper of Chechnya and others]. Under Russian bombs 17 top field commanders were killed. Russians destroyed 209 objects of extraction and processing of oil ran by Islamic State and annihilated 2912 oil tanks and tanker trucks, including many belonging to the Turkish smugglers, carrying crude oil to Turkey, and by that significantly reducing the income from the [illicit] oil trade. Importantly, western countries including the United States understood that the by supplying arms they would not overthrow the Syrian president, and today no one puts a condition of his departure as a basis for peace talks.
There is no doubt that we won’t have any progress on diplomatic field to find a peaceful solution to this war if it was not for Russian changing course of this war but it is premature talking about lasting diplomatic success yet, especially that Russia in Geneva is confronting US government that instigated this war and negotiations involve US proxies FSA as well as ANF and ISIL products of US and its allies. While regaining momentum by SAA was an imperative and huge achievement of Russian military intervention, other developments seems to be strategically more important.
One of those was extremely intensive training of SAA and allied forces of Russian war tactics, usage of advanced military equipment but most of all development of fully integrated and coordinated Russo-Syrian military command and that includes fusion of Army, Air Force and human and electronic intelligence commands and Russian trained special forces units (one of them called “Tigers”) trained probably in Russia with Russian “Specnaz” and de facto those Syrian units have been fully integrated within Russian military command, practically being independent from Syrian military authority command with full right to call in air strikes including cruise missiles from Russian navy ships off shore.
Novorossia Today continues:
Russians radically strengthened the potential of the Syrian army, which today can not only effectively defend but also lead offensive operations. The Russians have provided the Syrians military equipment including modern tanks [T-90 with active armor and AT guided missile capabilities], artillery and reconnaissance systems. They delivered ammunition, which included extremely effective, MRLS BM-27 “Huragan”. Finally, in Hama Russians organized facilities repair armor providing spare parts, so that the line returned hundreds more damaged in the fighting tanks and armored personnel carriers. Also the Russian aviation “broke the neck” the most dangerous opponents of Assad [including ANF and ISIL].
In combat confrontation [against], CIA and Saudi Arabia provided US missile guided AGM-71 TOW the Russian provided SAA with countermeasure systems interfering with missile flight via technology of electronic-optical curtains [as well as reactive shields]. Russian newest tanks T-90, [as well as modernized t-72] came out of these clashes victorious. [It was very well documented on video clips released by terrorists and previously published on this blog.] Some video clips showed reactive armor “Kontakt-5 war head” of T-90 detonated safely defending the tank without any major damage to tank or crew. The rocket flamethrower TOS-1 “Buratino.”effectiveness [in combat areas] was confirmed for this first time in condition of war. The thermobaric shells eliminated hard to defeat fortified positions of the terrorist ANF in the mountains of northern Latakia and devastated positions of thugs of the Islamic State and their fortifications around the ancient Palmyra. Finally, it is worth noting unusually wide use of Russian reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles was tested in war setting. According to the data of the Russian staff, as apart of ceasefire agreement, Russians monitor frontlines using over 70 Russian made AVS. The basic argument of big US arms suppliers, about the superiority of their equipment [over Russian military technology] in combat conditions was proven wrong.
As Novorossia Today points out the other important factor were massive supplies of modern military equipment enough to cover Assad needs for years to come an to expand armed forces for additional 150 thousands soldiers. And hence not only new Russian air base in Hmeimim was built and Naval base in Tartus expanded but also two additional military bases were practically created or expanded allowing for training of Syrian military as well as repair of destroyed military equipment and most of all to upgrade to newest systems. Another military base run by IRG also helped in support to Iranian troops in Syria.
To be continued.
More on Russian withdrawal from Syria from other sources.
More on Russian withdrawal from South Front
TV2 Syria on Russian withdrawal. Thank you Russia.
New offensive in Palmyra (Tadmor); ground and Russian made helicopters in action.
Syrian Special forces on Palmyra front.
Likely but unconfirmed death of Russian adviser in Syria (Warning 18+)
Operations in Deir-Ez-Zor:
Humanitarian help reached Daraya near Damascus and Kefraya.
Idlib, Syria Support of ANF.
Pro-Assad opposition from Hmeimim” agreed on proposed Syrian constitutional changes.
Pro-US opposition from Geneva agreed on proposed Syrian constitutional changes.
Now they have to agree among themselves.
Turkey to the rescue of ISIL terrorists injured by Iraqi Shia militia.
ISIL fighting in Iraq
New helicopter in Russian base in Syria
Archaeological discovery near Damascus.
Teachers’ day in Damascus, Assad and evil Assad collaborator Mickey Mouse on the walls. Note girls and boys in the same classroom in school uniforms, shocking sight in the Middle East. Who are we fighting?
And here are our ISIL friends, our taxes paid for. From Raqqa.
Watch the “kill a jew” computer game, a toy paid for by our Qatari friends and ally so children can learn how to kill our Israeli friends and ally.
A heavily Turkish biased view on US leftist blog of counterpunch.org;
And this is for those future volunteers wanted to join ISIL.
Escalation in South China sea. Good analysis but missing point that all of that started with US presence thousands of nautical miles from US shore; China just reclaims area from under US imperial domination.
Why Gaddafi was overthrown and killed.
Forth gen MiG 35 show.