By Samer Hussein for Fort Russ
17th March, 2016
Since a lot of people are talking about the sudden Russian withdrawal from Syria, I thought I had a duty to clarify some things.
First of all, Russia is not “withdrawing” from Syria. Russia has only finished the job they first started on September 30th, 2015. Initially it was said the campaign will be completed by the last week of January, however, it was extended due to the very successful outcome. As a result of the recent Russian intervention, much of ISIS’ infrastructure and installations were destroyed, thousands of terrorists were killed, and (this is very important) lots of Syrian land (estimated around 8000 square miles), along with the strategically important towns contained within it, were liberated by the Syrian military.
Russia’s actions were so rapid and effective that they acquired the immediate attention of all ISIS backers, and later also a response from Ankara (one of the ISIS’ key suppliers and coordinators). On November 24th, the Turkish airforce shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M plane while it was on a mission against ISIS and other (in this particular instance, against the Turkmen and the Grey Wolf terrorists lurking in the Latakia countryside) terrorists, even though the plane was still inside Syrian airspace.
The illegal shootdown of Russia’s military property, which was in violation of the Syria’s State sovereignty, and most of all, resulted in the murder of the Russian pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Anatolyevich Peshkov, who was captured and later murdered by a gang of Turkish ultranationalist MHP Grey Wolves, triggered a furious response from the Russian side. As a result, Turkey is now facing billions of dollars of losses due to harsh economic sanctions imposed by Russia. And rightfully so.
Secondly, the Russian intervention in Syria is far from being completely over. It is said that some 20 planes (most European countries don’t have a fleet consisting of that many jets) will remain active and will continue to strike ISIS. Same goes for the naval base in Tartous and the Hmeimim military airport. The S400 defense system will also remain deployed.
Thirdly, Russia did not make any moves to stab Syria in the back. Currently, lots of geopolitical “experts” are saying the latest Russian move is the result of the brand new decision to support the federalization of Syria. Such rumours are absolutely untrue. The Russian side has assured it will continue to support Syria, its integrity, and its fight against international terrorism. Besides, what interest would Russia possibly have in the federalization of Syria?
For Russia and its influence in the region, as well as its military installations, a stable and united Syria is a must. The Russian side knows that should any federalization or even partition take place, the newly created entities would be on the US/NATO side of the geopolitical spectrum, and that would of course not be good. Those who lean towards the betrayal theory are either people who have no proper knowledge of the Russo-Syrian diplomatic relations or are simply russophobes and will do anything just to portray Russia in a negative way.
I often keep hearing things like “why did Russia not intervene in 2011, why did it wait for Syria to get completely destroyed” or “where is the S400?” The answer: Russia did not intervene because it was not asked to intervene. Simple as that. Some people even argue that Russia is a false ally of Syria for maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel. This has no effect on their actual Syria policy. The latter is and was many times criticized by the Israeli side for being the way it is. Last year the president Vladimir Putin also assured that Russia will support Palestinian attempts for an independent state. Russia is just trying to be moderate.
Last but not least, let’s not forget the fact that Russia and Syria are long-term allies; they did not form their friendship over night. Ever since Syria became independent in 1946, Russia (then known as the Soviet Union), always was Syria’s closest ally, and this also manifested multiple times throughout history.
Long story short: the things will remain the way they are. The fight against terror will continue, only at a faster pace now that ISIS are almost cut in half. The war will end eventually, especially because the key players are losing their interest now that the tide has turned and the consequences are becoming less and less pleasant day by day.