PUTIN'S TURN-ABOUT IN SYRIA: A COMMENT
"Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered his armed forces to start pulling out of Syria on Tuesday after a six-month campaign, saying that they had largely met their objectives and it was time to focus on peace talks. The announcement comes as external powers seek common ground for turning a tentative cessation of hostilities in the civil war into a political solution, efforts long hampered by Moscow’s support for Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s military intervention, which began in September, changed the course of the Syrian conflict. Before the Kremlin sent in its bombers, Mr Assad’s forces were losing ground to various armed rebel groups. Russian air power was often deployed indiscriminately, according to Syrian activists, and in the early stages did not target Isis positions despite Moscow saying that its mission was to destroy the jihadi group. Speaking at a meeting with Sergei Shoigu, minister of defence, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, Mr Putin said that his objectives had “overall been fulfilled”, adding: “Therefore I order the ministry of defence to start the pullout of the basic part of our military group from the Syrian Arab Republic.” The Russian announcement appeared to take much of the Obama administration by surprise. The state department initially declined to comment and said that John Kerry, secretary of state, had last spoken to Mr Lavrov on Thursday".Kathrin Hille, Geoff Dyer and Erika Solomon, "Putin orders Russian forces to start pulling out of Syria". The Financial Times. 14 March 2016, in www.ft.com.
“An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work.” So said U.S. President Barack Obama when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his military campaign in Syria to support the country’s authoritarian ruler. There’s just one problem, though: A day after Putin announced a Russian withdrawal from Syria, it’s clear that his gamble has turned into a major win for Moscow. Here’s what Russia achieved — and why it was so successful.... Russia entered Syria with one overriding objective: Preserve the Assad regime. To avoid another Afghanistan-style quagmire, Russia relies on fighters from its Shi’ite allies, including Assad, Hezbollah and Iran. By picking a clear and achievable goal and then ensuring that Moscow and its allies all rowed in one direction, Putin enacted a textbook proxy strategy".Josh Cohen, "Why — and how — Russia won in Syria". Reuters. 15 March 2016 in www.reuters.com Putin's announcement, regardless of whether or not he keeps to his promises to withdraw Russian forces in Syria, puts paid to the idea (never held by me) that Russian forces would become bogged down in an Afghanistan-like stalemate or morass. In keeping with Putin's ability to keep his enemies (and one can well imagine his allies and followers) off-balance, his announcement does the following: a) shows or endeavors to show, whether true or not, that Russia and its protégé Assad Fils, is sincerely interested in the upcoming peace talks which are about to commence in Genève; b) puts pressure on Assad himself to tow the Russian-line in the upcoming talks. As has been widely reported in the Western press, Moskva has not been entirely happy with backing Assad to the hilt, and the Russian announcement is further evidence that this is in fact the case 1; c) puts pressure on the Americans to in effect climb-aboard the policy train labeled 'Russia in Syria', and if not abandon the 'moderate' opposition, then at the very least to begin to distance itself from them. Which given the weakness and ineffectiveness of the moderates, a both being partly a result of Russian military operations in Syria in the past six-months and their own ineffectiveness, it would not be entirely surprising if it does in fact begin to do so. If nothing else, Putin's policies in Syria in as well as in Ukraine in the past few years has shown him to be a master tactician. Something which no one can say of his Western opponents. 1. Max Fisher, "Putin withdrawing Russian forces from Syria: why now and why it matters". Vox World. 14 March 2016 in www.vox.com