The completion of the active phase of the military operation in Syria announced by the leadership of Russia allows you to take stock and consider options for developments, since the situation in this country is far from stability and will be so until Saudi Arabia and Turkey take the overthrow of President Al-Assad off the agenda.
Consider the actions of the Russian Aerospace Force of the Russian Federation and the course of the diplomatic war against the SAR, based on the materials of the expert IBV, Yu.
Against the backdrop of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Russian example shows: modern armies in local conflicts can win on the battlefield and solve the problems of preparing a peaceful way out of crises. At the time of the introduction of the Russian contingent into Syria, government troops lost their strategic initiative on the fronts. They lost the edge in aviation and heavy military equipment, the Air Force fleet failed, a number of airfields were captured by militants, while the advantage in the air smoothed the shortage of Syrian army in manpower due to the interfaith nature of the conflict and the imbalance between the Alawites - the pillar of the regime and the Sunni population, which formed the backbone of the opposition.
A number of experts believe that the disproportion between the Alawites, their allies from national minorities and the Sunnis will lead to the resumption of a large-scale civil war after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria. Doubt it.
Alawites in Syria are about 20 percent, about 60 percent are Sunni Arabs. The rest are Kurds, Circassians, Turkomans, Druze, Armenians and Assyrians. All of them, except for the Turkomans (and those in part), at the beginning of the Russian military operation, had defined their position in relation to the conflict. The Islamist model of existence in the dominant Sunni umma according to the plans of Qatar, Turkey and KSA did not suit them: it was a question of the physical extermination of these peoples. This strengthened the base of support for the regime to 40 – 45 percent of the population. And not all Sunnis are involved in the war. The main role in the "Islamic State" and "Dzhebhat en Nusra" (banned in Russia) are foreigners. The share of Syrians in the IG does not reach 20 – 30 percent, and in “Dzhebhat an-Nusre” - 40 percent. The rest are waiting - whose will take.
The Syrian army at the time of the appearance in the country of the Russian Aerospace Forces was collapsed, but the part that remained on the side of Damascus was motivated by physical survival. Such motivation of even the few ground forces with competent staff work and the strengthening of the wing, which guaranteed air supremacy and fire power, is the key to success in local conflicts. Aviation stabilized the situation, the advisers restored the structure of the army and mobilized the population. While this work was going on, Iranians and Shiite formations from Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan compensated for the lack of ground forces. In addition, the Russian military began, cutting off the irreconcilable, to engage in local truces with specific tribes and clans.
The tactic of successive steps is much more effective in establishing control over territories than global negotiation formats. Unlike the field commanders and the overseas “Syrian intellectuals” of the “opposition,” every sheikh wants his tribe to survive and continue to live in traditional places. He has no right to risk and expose his threat of extermination. If he is given guarantees of the safety of his fellow tribesmen, as evidenced by the presence of airplanes in the air and accompanied by humanitarian aid, the choice is obvious. Thanks to such diplomacy, Damascus, after the release of a significant part of the Russian group, will be able to control vast Sunn territories even in conditions of a shortage of manpower.
This is the classic tactic of the British, small garrisons who kept under control huge India. In Syria, troops and Shiite militia must hold control points that determine the functioning of the infrastructure, logistics routes and irrigation facilities. In all other matters, local tribes will gain wide autonomy. This model was used in the IG, when forces in 30 thousands of bayonets controlled vast territories in Iraq and Syria. IG gave the Sunnis the illusion of a "just state." They received the rules of social and economic residence that satisfied them at the expense of other confessions and security guarantees. This system had to be destroyed, proving its futility. And it is done.
Syrians are merchants, not warriors. They, unlike the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and the Housits in Yemen, quickly get tired of the war. They need peace and stability with clear rules of the game with moderate arbitrariness of the authorities. Absolutely without him in one oriental country is indispensable. So the revival of the IG is possible only with the refusal of Damascus to provide the Sunnis with broad socio-economic autonomy. Yes, and it is possible only in the form of partisan attacks: the IS lost the sources of funding for recruiting foreign recruits. Syrian resistance can only be fought thanks to foreign sponsors: KSA, Turkey and Qatar. Saudis stand for Dzhebhat an Nusroy, Qatar - for the IG. Turks are blocked with Qatar and play a Pan-Turkism card in Syria through Turkomans.
Prior to the entry of the Russian group, the sponsors acted in concert from the perspective of the approaching overthrow of Assad. At the same time there were contradictions between them and then, even in the period of the anti-Assad alliance, which led to clashes of Dzhebhat an-Nusra with the IS and pro-Turkish groups. The task of Moscow was to crush this alliance, demonstrating the unreality of the overthrow of Assad by military means. The appearance of the Russian military in Syria has raised this question, and the capture of Aleppo has buried the hopes of the opposition to win, reinforcing the centrifugal tendencies among the sponsors of the "resistance."
First of all, we can note the growing confrontation between Turkey and KSA in Idlib. Evidence of this was the crisis between the "Arab Four" and Qatar. The united anti-Assad front split, which made it possible to create the Astana format, withdrawing the US, KSA and the EU from the main negotiators on the Syrian issue. The warring parties came to agreements on de-escalation zones, finding a scheme for freezing the conflict, intensifying socio-economic relations between different segments of the population and preparing the foundation for the commencement of the all-Syrian negotiation process. Combining military methods, political and regional analysis, they managed to create an optimal algorithm of actions, defeat the Islamist group based on combat potential and seize the initiative to solve the crisis politically by achieving interfaith consensus on the conditions of Moscow, not the West or the Arabian monarchies.
The Syrian opposition considers it impossible to extend the power of Bashar al-Assad. This was announced in Geneva by the official representative of the joint delegation Yahya al-Aridi after meeting with the special representative of the UN Secretary General on Syria, Staffan de Mistura. The demand for the immediate departure of the current president is contained in the communique of the unifying conference of the opposition in Riyadh. It is emphasized that only after the removal of Assad there will be an opportunity to begin the transition period. The delegation of the SAR Government, which participated in the negotiations in Geneva, insisted on the removal of this requirement. According to Al-Arabia, de Mistura at the meeting stressed that the change of power in Syria should be carried out through the adoption of a new constitution and the holding of elections.
The new er-Riad group failed all possible options to monopolize the opinion of the opposition in the Geneva format and thereby disavow it. We doubt that such a U-turn was liked in the USA, where they planned to make the negotiations in Geneva unopposed through the “single group”. The position of Riyadh remains to be an enigma, having put a lot of effort into creating a single delegation, but at the same time making it incompetent. If the KSA did not hope for progress in the new lineup, they would not change the leadership of the erdi group as a matter of urgency.
The desire to participate in the negotiations with Damascus with the preliminary demand for Assad’s departure looks strange. This indicates either extreme political naivety or deliberate sabotage of the Geneva dialogue. And this suits Moscow as it highlights the Astana process and the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue. Against the background of the diplomatic failure of Riyadh, in addition to advancing an alternative to the negotiations in Geneva, it is important to squeeze out Saudi-controlled groups in the form of “Dzhebhat al-Nusrah” from central and southern Syria. Dissociative Sunni enclaves should be cleaned up with the elimination or minimization of Saudi influence on the situation in the SAR. This, together with the beginning of the struggle for domination in Idlib between Turkey and KSA, should be offset by the Saudi factor.
The most correct decision is the combination of humanitarian pressure with military means, which led earlier to the voluntary-forced evacuation of militants and their family members from Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Kalamun. Alternative for the irreconcilable: or care with the family in a special zone in Idlib, or destruction. Apparently, the process has already begun. According to some reports, 12 December, jihadists of various formations that are part of Al-Qaida, were asked to give them the opportunity to leave the Eastern Guta. Negotiations with the authorities about the evacuation initiated, according to rumors, the Uighurs from the "Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement" (IDTF). Considering their ties with the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), we do not exclude that this proposal was dictated by Ankara to strengthen its position in Idlib. If it works, most of the pro-Saudi armed fronds will leave central Syria.
At the same time, the Syrian army launched an attack on the Dzhebhat an-Nusra position in the south of the SAR near the Golan. That is, there is a coordinated elimination of the strongholds of this group throughout the country with a forced concentration of pro-Saudi militants in Idlib. If the Russian Aerospace Forces, remaining on Syrian bases, participate in the rout of the factions in Idlib, this will remove the barriers to the start of a real peace process. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that the Er-Riad group is the political wing of the “Dzhebhat an-Nusra”, negotiations with it on the future political system of Syria are the first step in the legalization of the militants.
Negotiations with the opposition group in Geneva under the auspices of Riyadh mean recognition of the American-Saudi tandem as a key partner in the peaceful settlement of the ATS, which clearly does not meet Russian interests and disavows the negotiations in Astana, not to mention the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. Congress - an alternative to Geneva. Its representative potential should accumulate gradually. This will be stimulated by local truce with the tribes and military leveling of the presence of “Dzhebhat al-Nusra” in the center and in the south of the country with the localization of jihadists within the borders of Idlib.
The postponement of the convening of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress is clearly related to the presence of representatives of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PDS), a branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Ankara even gave Moscow a list of leaders and public figures who could be an alternative to the PKK functionaries for representation at the congress. Moscow is being pushed to determine its position in relation to the PKK and the VCP and the further participation of the Turkish side in Russian negotiation initiatives. This is exactly what Ankara recommends doing to Washington, which, in the person of the PDS, has its only ally in the Syrian land today. But that “is not defined”, and this position makes sense to stick to Moscow, if Russia wants to convene a congress with the participation of the Kurds under its auspices and play in Syria as a big deal.
Experts talk that the PKK is a terrorist organization and its Syrian branch is in a dense orbit of the influence of the Americans, do not stand up to scrutiny. Any attempts to obstruct the PKK or to blacklist will affect Russia's ability to maintain ties with the VCP leadership. Regardless of whether their representatives are present at the congress or not (perhaps you should refrain from inviting them, focusing on contacts with them), their role in organizing contacts with Sunni tribes on the eastern bank of the Euphrates is very large for the trouble-free activities organized by the Russian military reconciliation staffs. The offensive of the Syrian government forces with the support of the Russian HQs on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and the organization of reconciliation headquarters there needs a dialogue with the Kursk detachments of the Forces of Democratic Syria (SDS).
The process of embedding Sunni tribes in the Syrian political system at the very beginning, and rash steps towards the PKK, and therefore the PDS, will seriously complicate it. The base of the PDS and US alliance is being eroded. Implicitly yet, as Americans continue to supply weapons PDS, despite the fact that Ankara is assured of the opposite. But as the US begins to reduce support and force the Kurds to withdraw from the areas they currently occupy east of the Euphrates (otherwise they will not find support from the local Sunni tribes), their alliance will weaken. The presence of Kurds in the north of Syria forces Moscow to maintain communication channels with them.
The main need to maintain contact with the PDS and the PKK is to save the Kurdish buffer to respond to the possible actions of Erdogan. There were precedents both when the Turks shot down the Russian Su-24, and when the Turkish president supported Trump’s thesis on the need to overthrow Assad, and when, during the Sochi summit, he actually thwarted the process of convening the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. Despite the talks in Astana, the admission of tomatoes to Russia, the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, Ankara’s position on the Syrian issue may change at any time. In many respects it will depend on Washington.
The only way to influence the situation is painful for Turkey, in addition to the economy, to interact with the PKK. It manifested itself after the incident with the Russian front-line bomber, when, at the suggestion of the Syrian special services, the Kurds from the PDS in Kamyshly concluded an anti-Turkish pact with left-wing Turkish groups and a wave of terrorist attacks and attacks on security forces swept the country. Now the Kurds have created an anti-German cordon in the north of Syria, with the exception of the area between Jarablus and Azzaz, which binds the material and technical supply of pro-Turkish groups in Syria and their activity. Such an effective way of influencing an unpredictable partner of Russia should be held in reserve, by no means breaking the contacts with the PKK.
Among other things, the PKK in Iraq is under the influence of Tehran, which supplies its troops with weapons and equipment and acts as a guarantor of their security in case of possible Turkish intervention. In the case of repression against the PKK, Moscow aggravates relations with Tehran, and Russian companies will start having problems in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. The same applies to the overwhelming number of Kurdish public organizations in Russia, which are mainly PKK supporters. At the same time, Moscow has no trouble from the PKK either in Russia or abroad. She is an outside observer in the battles of Ankara and Washington on the Kurdish issue and receives dividends from this. Why change this position to an active and accented anti-Kurd?
In Europe, the PKK traditionally feels comfortable, despite all the demands of Erdogan and the traditional opposition of Kurds and Turks in the communities of the diaspora. So Russia does not need to be afraid of becoming an international outcast because of its position on the PKK. If someone from domestic politicians wants to annoy the United States, worsening relations with the Kurds, then this is a losing attempt in advance. No anti-Kurdish actions will affect Washington’s support for the PDS in northern Syria. As for the idea to encourage Ankara to have a closer relationship with Moscow, this is even more stupid. The Turks will only do what is profitable for them, regardless of Moscow’s concessions. Rather, any concessions of this kind will be perceived by them as a sign of weakness and the need to increase pressure.
The idea of overthrowing President Assad by any means is present in Erdogan's subcortex. He can only refuse it temporarily, seriously fearing Russia, but not at all in gratitude for anything. The idea of recognizing the PKK as a terrorist organization by the Russian authorities is clearly thrown into the Russian politicians from Ankara. This is reminiscent of projects for integration into the international community, which at the end of 80 tempted Mikhail Gorbachev and his entourage to abandon the country's position in the world and Europe in favor of phantoms. I would like to hope that the repetition of this catastrophic error in the modern conditions is ruled out, despite the fact that the military successes of Russia in Syria make the enemies look for ways to weaken it ...