September 6th, 2015 -
By: Boris Rozhin (aka Colonel Cassad) for Novorosinform -
translated for FR by J. Arnoldski -
In recent times, discussions have been revived about the participation of Russian armed forces on the side of Assad in the war in Syria against the Caliphate. I would like to highlight a few points.
1. It’s not secret that the survival of the Assad regime depends on the assistance that Syria received from Russia and Iran. Russia’s blocking of a no-fly zone in the UN Security Council ensured the political survival of Assad and military assistance from Russia, as well as Iran, has provided for the military survival of the legitimate Syrian government which, for 4 years, has fought to survive despite the loss of former Syrian territories. The Assad regime has proven to be quite capable and sustainable.
2. Russia and Iran are not directly fighting for Syria, but are helping to keep her alive. The brunt of the war rests on the shoulders of the regular Syrian army and the militias that are fighting a war on several fronts. It is clear that without supplies through the Mediterranean ports of Syria, it would be much harder to maintain the combat readiness of troops. It is also obvious that without the “polite” advisers and specialists from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Syrian forces wouldn’t be so highly effective. So Russia and Iran have long participating directly in this conflict on the side of the Syrian government, which of course irritates Washington, who is officially suggesting that it’s time for Moscow to hand over the Assad regime. A number of “suggestions” have been thrown around on the topic of “exchanging Assad.”
3. Nevertheless, at this moment, Russia is obviously not interested in stopping to support Assad. Moreover, Russia is trying to ensure his survival within the framework of concluding an alliance with the various participants in the war who have fought against the Caliphate. Moscow calculates that if the Caliphate, and not Assad, is considered the main threat, then the US would agree that a political settlement in Syria would happen on the basis of a compromise with Assad, and not his absolute overthrow. Currently, the US rejects the Russian proposal and, moreover, has toughened its stance on Syria, openly declaring that if Assad will intensify pressure on US-backed militants, then the territory of Syria will be bombed. In this regard, the US still emphasizes the pro-Western opposition structures the most, although these are now far from being able to squeeze Assad.
4. Turkey, which has consistently sh*t on the Assad regime by supporting anti-government militants, has now launched a different policy direction, by sweeping out the Kurds (including those autonomies in Northern Syria and Iranian Kurdistan). In so doing, Turkey has become involved in the fight against the Caliphate and has begun air-strikes against the territory of the black-banner lovers. The Americans openly abandoned the Kurds, thereby ending the long-standing project of forming a Greater Turkistan in Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. Now, it’s more important for the US to send Turkey against the Caliphate (because the current coalition cannot cope with it) and simultaneously prevent a rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow as part of the ongoing confrontation between the US and Russia.
5. For Russia, it is necessary to retain its positions in Syria amidst the bloody mess of events, and this means retaining the survival of the Assad regime...Russia is extremely interested in the elimination of the Caliphate, whose influence has begun to penetrate Central Asia, the Caucasus, and even Russia. In the case of a victory of the Caliphate, then an extremely aggressive Islamic state would be produced to the south of Russia. And this Caliphate would expand aggressively, including to the north, therefore the coalition which the US is knocking together to hold back the Caliphate is generally in the interests of the Russian Federation.
6. The key problem: no one wants to fight the Caliphate directly. One thing is to bomb positions of the Caliphate from above carefree (the Caliphate’s anti-air defense is weak and has a focal character, although the example of the downed Jordanian fighter shows that they can sometimes deliver) and here Russia could join air-strikes on Caliphate positions in Syria in those areas which would help the Syrian army. The main problem: financial costs of maintaining materials on Syrian territory and the cost of combat missions.
7. A ground war is another thing. At the moment, the Syrian army, Kurdish militias, autonomous Islamist groups, pro-Syrian groups, the Iraqi army, and the Shiite militia are fighting against the Caliphate. Indirectly involved in some activities is Iran, especially behind Iraq’s Shias. The US and NATO countries are mostly limited to expensive airstrikes, training the Iraqi army, and equipping the Syrian enemies of Assad. Currently, Turkey and Iran are refraining from the temptation to involve their land forces in a war with the Caliphate, as the losses would not be small, and the benefits of their participation would mostly be reaped by other countries: the US, Russia, and Syria. Turkey is now seduced by territorial matters at the expense of the Kurds. Iran, as before, prefers to conduct a “hybrid war”, supporting Assad’s Syria, the Shia in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen. The total complexity of the situation consists in the fact that, formally, everything is against the Caliphate, yet parties fighting amongst themselves prevents the emergence of an effective coalition against the Caliphate. Currently, the US, NATO, Russia, and Iran prefer the hybrid nature of the war. So US and NATO advisers stand behind the backs of the Iraqi army and Syrian rebels, as do specialists from Russia and Iran behind the Syrian army. Plus, Iran is still actively helping the Houthis resist the army of Saudi Arabia, supported by the United States.
8. It’s understood that Russia’s plan is the creation of a coalition against the Caliphate with the participation of Assad, and this appears to be the most optimal from the point of view of the common good (and for Syria itself). But due to the fact that no one has any need for the common good, this plan will most likely not be fully realized. The goals and objectives of the parties in the ongoing war are too varied. In this regard, it appears that Russia will continue military-technical assistance to Syria, plus the option of involving Russian aircraft in attacks of Caliphate troops in Syria. The presence of Russian ground forces in the Syrian war is unlikely, especially for operations inside Syria. As a maximum, there could be operations in the area of Tartus and Latakia, if the ports upon which Syria relies for supplies are really threatened. Iran would act similarly. The brunt of the fighting against the Caliphate remains as before to be born by the Syrian and Iraqi armies (which, by the way, is also supplied with Russian weapons). In principle, the most successful scenario for Russia would be the destruction of the Caliphate (or restricting its expansion) by others, and in this plan, “lend-lease” would solve the problem of weapons for those who are to destroy one of the main threats in the region and for Russia. Being drawn into a direct war with the Caliphate is hopeless, since Russia will not receive the main benefits.
9. Regarding the question as to whether or not Russia needs to maintain distance from Syria, we should remind ourselves that Syria is the last country in the Middle East where Russia has a strong position. The loss of Syria would mean that Russia is out of the Middle East for a long time, and the fall of the Assad regime would untie the hands of the Caliphate in promoting its expansion, which will not stop at Syria, and which our country would in any case have to face. So far, Russia can choose where, how, and what she wants to do. In my opinion, a limited level of intervention with enhanced support for Assad is optimal, as engaging in a direct war makes no sense, and there are many people besides us who will shoot in the direction of the black flags. Its appropriate to put weapons in these hands. Currently, the strengthening of the Caliphate opens a window of opportunity for Russia to be associated with peacekeeping and coalition diplomacy despite the apparent displeasure of Washington. It is obvious that during Putin’s visit to the US, not only Donbass, but also the future of Syria and the Caliphate will be discussed.
10. Officially, Russian and Iran, just as the US and NATO, will pretend that they’re not officially engaged. Such is a feature of modern hybrid warfare. Now, there is a mutually understood set of rules to the game, which is a logical consequence of the evolution of local conflicts involving Great Powers, where a special role is given to the information-psychological element of war and its media components. Russia and Iran in this regard learned from the Americans and, as the course of the war, already in its fourth year, shows, they studied quite successfully. Assad is still alive, and the Saudi offensive has withered in the Yemeni desert.