A lot of the pieces that I see in the Russian online press are “paraphrase/translations” from other international sources, into Russian, for the benefit of the Russian-language readers who don’t have access to the originals, or can’t read the original languages.
Here, for example, is something I saw yesterday, which is basically a re-telling of this story from the Financial Times, posted by Erika Solomon and John Reed. Unfortunately, the FT won’t let me read their story without paying/subscribing. Which I refuse to do.
So, instead, I am put in the ridiculous position of translating/paraphrasing back into English from Russian. The usual caveats and disclaimers apply. So, here goes:
Successes of Syrian Ground Forces
With Russian air support, Syrian army is starting to win back the whole south of the country which they had previously lost to the rebels. Financial Times is worried that this will not only weaken one of the last remaining outposts of the rebels, but also shake up the balance of power on the border with Israel.
The successes of the Syrian forces surprised both the rebels themselves, and their American sponsors. Who had been counting on Moscow’s “timidity”, calculating that the Russians would not venture so close to the Israeli border.
According to the Financial Times: “The rebels from the Southern Front Alliance say that they were astonished to find themselves the target of this new campaign. Given that their forces are under the command and control of the (Saudi) Arabs and Western military forces, including the USA.”
Feeling safe in their enclave, it was an unpleasant surprise for the Moderate Rebels, when, under Russian air cover, they saw Syrian army troops, along with Hezbollah, just strolling up to the Golan Heights like they owned the place. The rebels wonder curiously and perhaps hopefully if this will spark a conflict between the Syrian forces and Israel, since it is Israel which currently controls the Heights.
The Syrian army appears to be focused on re-taking the strategic town of Al-Shaykh Maskin, which is currently half under the control of the Moderate Rebels (=FSA). If and when the Syrian army fully re-take Al-Shaykh Maskin, then they will have returned control to the central government over all of the southern part of the country. And this victory will give President Bashar al-Assad a strong hand at the negotiating table.
But What About the Israelis?
So, the card game is going well, but the joker in this deck is Israel. Financial Times wonders curiously: “Both Israel and Russia have an interest in avoiding conflict. And many analysts suspect that Moscow and Tel-Aviv have come to an agreement behind the scenes.”
FT also speculates that Jordan has an interest in the success of the Russian-Syrian operation.
End of the FT paraphrase. But collating all of this material, also taking into account traditional Russian cautiousness, one can conclude with a fair degree of confidence the following: That Russian diplomacy behind the scenes has secured the tacit – I won’t say agreement – but maybe passive support of both Israel and Jordan, who at the least will modestly cover their eyes and pretend not to notice, when Syrian troops make mincemeat of the Moderate Rebels who used to rule this three-way border area.