US Shifts Syria Policy
Nikolai BOBKIN | 05.11.2015 | OPINION

US Shifts Syria Policy

By launching the military operation in Syria, Russia showed the world that it does not abandon its allies. Moscow achieved the strategic result it had been pursuing during all the years since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. On October 30, 19 states met in Vienna to agree on preserving Syria as a one state, defeating the Islamic State and supporting the Syrian refugees, as well as the countries that host them. Syrian people will decide the fate of their country, representatives of the government of Syria and the Syrian opposition will be convened for a political process leading to credible, inclusive governance, followed by a new constitution and elections.

There was no consensus reached on the destiny of President Bashar al-Assad, but Washington dropped its demand for his dismissal as a prerequisite for launching an international effort to fight terrorist groups in Syria. The final declaration on the results of the Syria talks in Vienna states that all groups listed as terrorist by the United Nations Security Council must be fought to be defeated. The Islamic State tops the list. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggests that more consultations should be held to define a comprehensive list of terrorist groups, including those not yet designated as such by the United Nations, no matter they evidently belong to this category. At last the war in Syria is recognized as the fight of legal national government against terrorist organizations that have occupied parts of the country’s territory. 

The operation of Russia Aerospace Forces will continue. The terms for other countries to conduct combat actions against the Islamic State on Syrian soil are not clear. From the very start the Kremlin offered the White House to agree on coordination of actions, but Washington refused the proposal.

Russian intervention makes the United States reconsider some of its plans in Syria. As mentioned above, the US has abandoned its tough stance on the fate of Bashar al-Assad. To save face, America will have to recognize the fact that Russia has achieved success in its fight against terrorism. Russian fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out in a month this year. As Business Insider, a US outlet, wrote on October 23, «…none of our NATO allies could match what Russia has done so far in the skies».

In a month the Russian aviation carried out 1391 sorties to eliminate over 1600 Islamic State targets, including command posts, ammunition and fuel depots, militants’ training camps and field bases. 

CounterPunch reports that Russia makes no distinction between terrorist groups in its attacks: «No one who’s been following events in Syria for the last three weeks should have any doubt about what’s really going on. Russia has been methodically wiping out Washington’s mercenaries on the ground while recapturing large swathes of land that had been lost to the terrorists. That, in turn, has strengthened Assad’s position in Damascus and left the administration’s policy in tatters», writes the outlet. 

The United States is suffering a triple defeat in Syria: it has been unable to change the regime in Damascus, the war of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State has ended up in failure and the United States credibility in the Middle East has been put into doubt.

Unlike the US, Russia is back to the region with its influence on the rise. The situation in Syria is visibly improving. The government forces make new gains liberating one area after another. Militants surrender having suffered great losses.

An Islamic State unit on special operations mission surrendered to Syrian government forces in Al-Quneitra (near the Golan Heights). The militants were responsible for the terrorist acts committed in Al-Hasakah and demolition of government buildings in Damascus. 

What do terrorist detainees say during interrogations? Many of them have gone through training courses in the camps located in the east of Syria. They have been trained by US instructors to become masters of subversive actions. Others have been trained by US trainers to seize Syrian army tactical missile sites in the camps located in the west of the country. Actually, it’s not «moderate opposition» but the terror groups operating under US control. This conclusion is confirmed by other facts.

The militants started to receive anti-tank missile systems right after Russian Aerospace Forces launched the strikes. On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the delivery of such systems would be a big mistake to be committed by the United States. No matter that, in a few days the Pentagon announced it would supply weapons to what it calls «trustworthy elements». At the very same time it said about 50 special operations troops would be sent to Syria. 

US decision to deploy special operations forces in Syria will not influence the policy of Russia calling for united efforts to fight terrorism. Speaking at a press-conference in Vienna on October 30, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, Russia’s position has not changed. There is a common enemy to fight. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to believe that President Obama will not renege on his vow not to have boots on the ground in Syria. But the resident of the White House is not that adamant. There are some signs to make one believe that the President can change his policies on Syria and Iraq.

At least, the Pentagon has started to consider new military options in the Middle East. 

The revamped strategy includes temporary deployments of limited numbers of special forces in Syria, and attack helicopters in Iraq, plus more forward-based target-spotters to increase the accuracy and efficacy of coalition air strikes.

If these steps were really taken to fight the Islamic State and other terror groups, then Russia would be ready to coordinate activities if only the US plans are not a part of a totally inappropriate unfair play.

Tags: ISIS   Middle East  Syria  US  al-Assad 

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