Russia's Syrian interest is a factor that no one can ignore
Events in Syria and around it are clearly developing in a different scenario than in all other countries of the “Arab spring”. The information and propaganda machine that worked in Libya and Egypt stalled: the alliance of the Western and Arab media does not provide the level of processing of public opinion necessary for making appropriate military-political decisions.
On the one hand, too many frauds and falsifications were released into the media space. On the other hand, the results of “democratic transformations” in the Arab world turned out to be catastrophic, including for the Western community. Moreover, none of those who organized the fall of the authoritarian regimes of North Africa and Mashrek did not receive anything expected from them.
It was easier to overthrow their leaders than to ensure stability on the territory of countries seized by Islamist political and terrorist groups and parties that formed governments operating under the slogan “The Koran is a decision”. In Tunisia, the Islamists lost a monopoly on power, in Egypt they were overthrown by the army, and in Libya, the struggle of groups supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the one hand, and also Turkey and Qatar on the other, paralyzed state institutions. In Yemen, a coalition of Arabian monarchies, trying to bring the country under control, got bogged down in battles with the Zeidit tribes. In Iraq, the pro-Cathar "Islamic State" (IG) is dangerous not so much for Iran as for Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As for Syria, predictions about the early overthrow of the Assad regime remain predictions.
The latter is explained by the position of Russia and China in the UN, as well as support from Russia and Iran. Moreover, if the presence of the Iranian military in Syria and Lebanon is a constant factor, then Russia has recently noticeably increased activity in the region. Understanding the fact that Moscow has its own geopolitical interests there, which it does not intend to abandon in exchange for the promises of Western partners and Arabian monarchies, at least by the mentioned partners, judging by the statements that the Syrian crisis can be resolved with the help of Russia . As well as the understanding that forcing her to join the campaign against Assad, as a result of which Syria will cease to exist, its ethnic and religious minorities will be subjected to genocide, and the territory of the country will finally turn into the same Islamist proving ground as Libya has become.
In Libya, it was possible to persuade Russia to join the "Western Club". And the consequences of this step, including the economic ones, turned out to be sad for her. Since then, distrust of the West has aggravated the Ukrainian crisis, during which Moscow was subjected to sanctions pressure. As a result, it no longer views NATO as a partner structure and is not regarded as a military-political partner by the states that are members of this organization, primarily the United States. Its military presence is being attempted to be limited both in the Black Sea basin and in the Mediterranean. The retooling of the NATO Navy with modern sea-based cruise missiles de facto canceled the treaty on the reduction of medium-range missiles.
The 6 fleet of the United States must be neutralized in potential actions against Russia, which explains what is happening in Syria. Plus, Moscow’s adoption of a strategy to protect its interests in this country, which is currently being implemented. The understanding that the Syrian direction of the Russian policy is undergoing serious changes caused an emergency visit to Russia by the Israeli Prime Minister, thankfully, the Jewish state is more interested in coordinating policies in this area with Russia than the rest of Syria’s neighbors. Below, the author would like to present to the readers a vision of the situation in Syria and around the Institute of the Middle East, based on the materials of Yu. B. Shcheglovina.
Tel Aviv's fears
The aforementioned visit by the Israeli Prime Minister to Moscow, in addition to Syria, was aimed at discussing the sale of C-300 air defense systems to Iran. The parties must determine the order of "mutual coexistence" in the region. At the same time, analysts of Israeli military intelligence insist that the Assad regime will fall under any variants of the development of events, regardless of the volume of military-technical assistance from Russia and Iran. As a result, in the process of Russian-Israeli consultations, the prevention of falling into the hands of terrorists and supporters of the “Islamic state” of Russian arms was discussed.
Israeli military intelligence notes that the government’s army is not able to maintain control over all of Syria. It controls about 20 percent of Syrian territory, “Islamic State” - 40 percent, “Jabhat al-Nusra” - 15 percent, Kurdish militia - also 15 percent. Desert areas of Syria are under the control of tribal militias that are associated with one or another side of the conflict. At the same time, the Israelis believe that the Syrian army spent up to 93 percent of the arsenals in the battles. As a consequence, Assad, according to the Israelis, can go for the use of chemical weapons, part of which, according to their data, remained at his disposal. Military intelligence does not believe in the potential of government forces, the Assad regime in Israeli service slang is called "little Syria."
Israel sees the threat to national security in the IS expansion and the exit of its troops to the Israeli border. IG supporters are currently in Katibe, 70 kilometers from the Golan Heights. Militants "Jabhat al-Nusra", according to the Israelis, decided not to provoke Israel. However, in the event of the fall of the Syrian regime in a short time, the Israelis will receive a “third front” (after Hezbollah and Hamas) along the entire length of the border with Syria. Islamist movements in this scenario will begin to compete with each other, but the Arabian monarchies and Turkey behind them will not fail to use them to put pressure on Israel.
Syrian Druze live mainly in the province of Suweida and support Assad. Hezbollah and Jabhat al-Nusra are trying to establish control over their territory, from which the Israeli armed forces attacked Israel’s 10 during the period of the civil war (Jerusalem blames the Lebanese for them).
The experts of IBV believe that for Israel the optimal is not the overthrow of Assad, but the strengthening of its regime. Together with the Kurds, his army is the only military force opposing the Islamists. As to the “exhaustion” of the regime, the war goes on for four years and, although the army is tired, the IS victory means the physical destruction of the Alawites, Christians and Kurds - there is no place for Assad to retreat.
As for the Syrian weapons, military assistance from Russia and Iran corrects the situation. Aviation and artillery play a major role in the war, given the superiority of opponents of the regime in humans. The failures of the Syrian army in the past year were associated with the critical situation of the Air Force and the loss of part of the air bases. That is why the sponsors of the Islamists demand the introduction of a no-fly zone in Syria, and their troops are attacking the air force base. The recent use of aviation from the Latakia airfield has forced the Jabhat al-Nusra command to change direction, redirecting forces to Hama, where artillery and air strikes allowed government forces to launch local counter-attacks.
In the event of a critical situation, the involvement of Iran’s ground forces remains a reality. In the vicinity of Hamah, Tehran is building an Air Force base, which makes it possible for it to organize an air bridge for the transfer of equipment and troops. To oppose such a scenario, the Arabian monarchies can only increase funding for militants against Assad. However, in Yemen, it did not help them.
Moreover, although the United States and Great Britain do not doubt the need for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, they now recognize that this issue should be discussed at all-party talks, which is what the negotiations with British Foreign Minister F. Hammond will end in London said US Secretary of State J. Kerry. He noted that Russia and Iran can help ensure that Assad takes part in negotiations on a peaceful settlement in Syria. The words of the head of the State Department coincided with the resumption of contacts between Russia and the United States at the level of defense ministers and the heads of intelligence agencies, which took place simultaneously with his visit to London. What does the beginning of a turn in the policy of Washington in the Syrian direction mean in the format of Russia's participation in it?
After the appearance of the first reports about the intensification of the Russian military presence in Syria in the West, they followed a different tactic, speaking about the unacceptability of Russian actions in the region and the threat of direct confrontation between Russia and the United States in Syria. Today, the role of Moscow as the main guarantor of the development of the situation according to the “soft” scenario, without the collapse of the regime and the coming of the Islamists to power, is increasing. Moscow is coming to the fore both as the main intermediary in negotiations with Damascus, and in the framework of exchanging intelligence information in the fight against IS, the lack of which led to the fact that half of the sorties of coalition aircraft are idling.
What is the optimal format for Russia's participation in resolving the crisis in Syria? There are no prerequisites for repeating the Afghan script. Moscow has concentrated its efforts on clearly defined directions. This is primarily the creation of a military infrastructure in the stronghold of the Alawites - Latakia, which means the existence of a rear base of the regime with all the options for the development of the situation. It is possible that the condition for creating such a base with a guarantee of public safety was the main demand of Damascus during the discussion with Moscow of the gradual departure of Assad from power with the transfer of it to the "transitional government." Moreover, the revitalization of Russia has already played its role. The pro-Saudi groups, which from the idlib bridgehead attacked Latakia, abandoned these plans. As after the start of carpet bombing, so, apparently, and as a result of informal agreements between Moscow and Riyadh.
It is important that the Islamists in Syria, unlike Afghanistan, do not have air defense systems to repel air attacks. It is hoped that the United States will not begin to play the Afghan scenario, supplying them with MANPADS, in memory of September 11. Fortunately, the mood in the American elite has changed since then, and in an anti-Islamic way. In this situation, the Islamists will not be able to carry out offensive operations using heavy equipment. We note in connection with the transfer of the main forces of Jabhat al-Nusra to Hamu that the Iranian IRGC base operates there. In addition, according to US intelligence, a sufficient number of Russian advisers were deployed there to organize the defense of the area. As for the organization of a refugee camp there by the Russian Ministry of Emergencies, we are actually talking about the formation of an active defense of Hama, more precisely, about a counteroffensive by the forces of the 4th mechanized division, which is equipped tanks T-90, BTR-80 and armored vehicles "Tiger". With a sufficient level of coordination with aviation, this attack has every chance of success.
What to expect from "sponsors"
The turn in the American tactics on the Syrian direction coincided with the closure of the topic of creating a no-fly zone north of Aleppo, lobbied by Ankara. The Turks received a final rejection from the Americans. The position of Washington was influenced by the deployment by Moscow in Syria of not only combat aircraft, but also PWO missiles. The question of the actions of Turkey and the Arabian monarchies remains open. They can intensify logistical support for the militants, but in the face of problems with national budgets in KSA and Turkey, the scale of this support will be limited. They are even less likely to redirect jihadism to the Russian North Caucasus. They cannot fight on two fronts (and for Riyadh on three fronts, taking into account the Yemeni direction), even if they forget about Russia's inevitable response.
It should be noted that questions about the direction of Russia's actions in Syria remain in Washington. American analysts do not understand the ultimate goals of this activity and its scale. The data of the US special services, which they mostly received from the Arabian monarchies about Moscow’s readiness to surrender the Assad regime, turned out to be misinformation. Moreover, Moscow officially warned ICAO that naval exercises will soon begin in the coastal areas of Syria and no one can give any guarantees that some of the participants will not remain in Tartus or Lattakia.
What is the focus of the West in connection with the increased military activity, including military-technical cooperation, between Russia and Syria? This is the transfer of armored personnel carriers of new modifications, UAVs (reconnaissance and percussion), small arms, RPGs and Ural trucks. In Latakia, the Marines landed from the landing craft and were guarded by cargo, most likely mobile air defense systems. A satellite survey of American intelligence noted engineering work at the Basil Asad airfield in Latakia, which is operated by Russian military transport aircraft. According to the Americans, a military base is being built there: an air traffic control center has been erected, the runway has been expanded, and residential premises have been built. Two helipads are being built. Excavation work goes the entire length of the runway. The airfield will soon be able to take heavy transport workers.
Two large landing ships and a support vessel passed from Sevastopol through the Bosphorus to Syria. The Americans claim that the Russian military presence has been noted in other parts of Syria, including the provinces of Lattakia, Homs (Iran is building a military base there) and Damascus. Russian advisers appeared (possibly an autonomous planning unit) at the naval academy in Latakia. In Tartus, they were reinforced by the Marine Corps: 810 and 336-I Guards Brigade.
Get to all
It should be noted that Syria is a country whose situation will determine the future of the entire region, including Lebanon and Jordan. 18 August in Beirut, the leader of the Hezbollah party H. Nasrallah announced the creation of new military command centers (in the Bekaa Valley with its center in Hermel and on the border with Syria). In Lebanon, there are about a million Syrian refugees, representing a reserve for Salafi groups such as "Jabhat al-Nusra" and the IG. The country is a transit point for Islamists heading for Syria. Hezbollah lost more than 1800 fighters in Syria, about 3000 were injured there, but the fate of Hezbollah itself is decided in Syria. Lebanese continue to fight in Syria, albeit in a smaller number than at the early stage of the conflict, mainly in the area of Zabadani and along the perimeter of the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The situation with the threat from the IG is particularly negative impact on Jordan, sandwiched between Syria and Iraq. Around one and a half million Syrian refugees have accumulated in the country, which creates tensions between them and local residents, as well as the leadership of influential Bedouin clans and authorities. Criticism of King Abdullah is particularly serious in the south of the country, where the population sympathizes with the IG. Amman maintained neutrality in relation to the events in Syria, maintaining contacts with the Syrian special services during the destruction of chemical weapons. The Syrians even allowed a mixed US-Jordanian group into one of their chemical arsenals.
The Jordanian authorities tried not to organize large camps for Syrian refugees or radical Islamists. They were redirected to Lebanon and Turkey. The transit camps, which were in Jordan at the beginning of the Syrian crisis, took care of the special services and the Circassian militia. In this case, the support of the Syrian Bedouin rebels was held with the participation of Jordanian intelligence services. On the basis of the Royal College of Special Forces, American instructors trained groups of former Syrian military to use, if necessary, to seize arsenals of Syrian chemical weapons. However, the country did not provide territory for the Islamist base bases. Turkey became their main transit country.
On the Jordanian territory, two camps are being deployed to prepare the new armed Syrian opposition: in the desert area and near the towns of Rams and Mafraq. The cadets are about 60 people from the former Syrian military, who are trained only by American instructors. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates finance training. But, as in the case of the Turkish counterpart, this program in the near future will not be able to replace the Islamists as the main armed opposition forces in Syria.
Concluding the brief analysis of the current situation in Syria and around it, we note how quickly the information noise subsided regarding the use of chemical weapons by Islamists against the Kurdish units at the end of August this year. The UN promised to conduct an investigation, the United States - to study the situation, and the other parties to the conflict did not respond at all to what happened. When the Syrian opposition allegedly suffered from chemical weapons two years ago, there was a lot of noise. Today, chemical weapons have reappeared in Syria and the Americans are starting further exploration. This means: "We know who, but we will not do anything."
Mossad and Israeli military intelligence have argued that the Islamists from Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, pro-Saud groups, used chemical weapons. This confirms that the provocation using chemical weapons by the Syrian government was organized by Riyadh in the hope of encouraging Americans to intervene in the Syrian conflict. Question: where did their groups take it and how is this related to the recent use of chemical weapons in Iraq by supporters of the Islamic State against the Kurds? Prosaud and prokariar groups will not exchange them. So they take it from a source in Iraq, where laboratories for the production of mustard gas are organized.
Two years ago, the experts did not pay attention to the fact that chemical weapons differed from the factory in composition and volatility. If the factory-made weapons were used by the army, the entire Syrian town would be extinct, as in Iraqi Kurdistan during the time of Saddam Hussein. In Syria, only a few people were affected and not to death. The same type of weapon was used by supporters of ISIS in Iraq. Moreover, it is known that the production technologies of poisonous gases, and in some cases the gas itself, Saudi Arabia tried to buy in Albania. This once again confirms the importance of preserving the Assad regime as a counterweight to the Islamists, even if it is part of Syria.
Bet more than Assad
- Eugene Satanovskiy