Russia: No More Mr. Nice Guy In Syria – Part I

Dear Readers:

Today I have this piece by Evgeny Krutikov, a capable military analyst and reporter who has been covering the Syria War.  Krutikov is a patriotic gadfly who, instead of going “Rah Rah Russia” often sounds the alarm about potential problems that he foresees.  The headline to this piece translates as:  “An Overly Liberal Attitude Towards the Militants Is Leading Syria To Disintegration”.  Krutikov’s tone is critical towards the type of Russian “meddling” which results in more jihadists living to fight another day.

Local Syrian woman thanks Syrian soldier for saving her from ISIS

Krutikov sees a budding conflict between the Syrian Special Forces and the Russian Military Police.  For example, certain populated areas have been liberated from the jihadist militants, and yet not completely returned to the jurisdiction of the central government in Damascus.  In these areas, Russian Special Forces are preventing the Syrians from conducting a proper door-to-door “cleansing” operation, as in rounding up the usual suspects.  Krutikov states that this Russian “softness” is creating a crisis that needs to be resolved pronto.

As the war grinds on with the end pre-ordained, certain militant enclaves are surrendering, one by one, but taking their sweet time about it.  Most of the jihadists have been herded to Idlib.  Latest enclave of militants ready to pack their bags: the town of Ar-Rastan, in the Homs Governate.  The militants have their surrender tactics down to a science now, or perhaps an art:  The Salafists bargain like camel traders right up until the last minute, eking out more favorable conditions for their retreat.  But eventually they will all end up in Idlib, now known as the “Goblins Retreat”, aka Syria’s hellhole.

The situation is different in the former Palestinian refugee camp known as Yarmouk, near Damascus.  Some of the less radical grouplets took advantage of the situation to make new demands.  As a result of this, the Al-Qaeda affiliate Tahrir Al-Sham was able to bargain favorable conditions which they had not earned on the battlefield.  For four years these terrorists had surrounded and besieged two major Shiite villages in the Homs Province.  The villages were never actually taken:  The locals survived on their own, unprotected by government or police, having no connection with Damascus, defending themselves with their own home-grown militias, getting by on smuggling and contraband.  These years of isolation shaped a new culture.

Logo of the aptly-named terrorist group Al-Sham

When Al-Sham proposed to finally leave these people alone in return for favorable conditions of egress, the Syrian government took the offer.  It was decided that there was too much risk (both to army and local populations) in forcibly removing the terrorists; therefore they were allowed to leave in peace.  Krutikov also surmises that the deal might have been proposed by the local Shiites of these villages themselves, who were tired of their ordeal and wanted it to end; and not necessarily by the militants.

Which leads to the statement of a problem that is not often spoken aloud:  The role of Russian mediators in crafting these deals…

[to be continued]

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15 Responses to Russia: No More Mr. Nice Guy In Syria – Part I

  1. Pavlo Svolochenko says:

    There have been at least two times that besieged terrorists were allowed to leave, partly in exchange for hostages they had already murdered.


  2. Russia will not supply S-300 to Syria:

    Seems like Putin took his orders from Netanyahu who was in Moscow.


    • Ryan Ward says:

      That’s not exactly what the article says. The article says that Russia has not made any arrangements to supply the S-300 to Syria, not that it won’t do so in the future. It’s a sensible decision too. Providing S-300s to the Syrians would increase tensions with the West, meaning there’s no reason to do it unless it’s really necessary. And nothing so far has shown that it’s necessary. The Syrian government is winning the war, and continues to do so. If Russia were to provide them with S-300s now, it would increase tensions and take a card out of the Russian hand. It’s better to keep the card in the hand, as the possibility of using it in the future increases Russia’s leverage.


  3. The Saker is now turning against Putin.

    Russia’s Lack of Reaction to Israel’s Strikes on Syria Is Disgusting:

    The Saker has been a big supporter of Putin who has deleted anti-Putin comments from his blog regularly.


    • yalensis says:

      Well, maybe this is just Nature’s way of reminding us that hero-worshipping of any biological individual is a silly endeavour.
      Whenever one idolizes a particular human (or animal), they are bound to disappoint!
      And maybe the Great And Glorious Saker needed to learn that lesson too:


      • Patient Observer says:

        Yes, as much as I admire the Saker he has made several major errors (although made many great calls as well). First IIRC, he was confident that Russia would never support any sort of a “rebellion” in Ukraine and that the Russian speakers in Ukraine had no interest in resisting Kiev.

        Another miss was Syria. He again maintained that Russia had no national interest in Syria therefore would not intervene with direct military assistance.

        Of lesser note but still telling, he condemns Milosevic for reaching a peace deal with US/NATO to stop the bombing of Serbia. The Saker recommended that Serbia take on the entire western world without expectation of military aid from Russia; basically to commit national suicide (and many Serbs did indeed wanted to fight NATO). Yet, he often states that Russia is not yet strong enough to militarily engage NATO and should seek to avoid direct conflict. I suspect that the Saker condemns Milosevic simply because he was a communist.

        I still consider the Saker as one of the best sources for analysis of geopolitics topics. In particular, his analysis and Orthodox and Islamic matters were highly insightful. And his military commentary is likewise extremely credible. And there is no questioning of his moral commitment to fight the forces of darkness and chaos.


      • Patient Observer says:

        Regarding recent comments by the Saker about Putin, I suspect that they are mostly an emotional reaction to an apparent conciliatory attitude toward Israel. I am 100% on board with the need to curb Israel but also recognize that Israel is the most public face of the transnational deep state. Putin is likely doing some political Judo and the same may go for Kudrin’s recent appointment.

        How quickly we forget his March 1 speech were he unveiled new Russians weapons as a direct and deadly challenge to the Western hegemony. Also his drive to remove the dollar as the dominant currency is meant as a kill shot of Western financial hegemony.

        Time is on the side of Russia. They will continue to become stronger and the West will continue its inevitable decline.


        • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

          Saker has the emotional makeup (and writing style) of a teenage girl, and his commenters tend to be freaks and monomaniacs who are only ‘pro-Russian’ to the extent that they hope Putin really is going to carry out the second and final holocaust.

          He’s frankly not worth the bother.


          • yalensis says:

            An apt characterization of (most of) Saker’s commenters.

            Plus, they keep barking up the wrong tree.
            Neither Putin nor Russia is what they project them to be.

            [hey, that rhymes — I’m a poet!]


            • Ryan Ward says:

              I think Saker is one of many examples of somewhat unbalanced individuals with an ideological pet project that they’ve projected onto Putin. Somehow Putin seems to have become a sort of Rorschach test, as he’s simultaneously been painted as the white knight of communists, white nationalists, generic “anti-imperialists”, and who knows what else. The ironic thing about all this is that Putin, although his general caginess makes it somewhat difficult to pinpoint his views exactly, seems to be somewhat of a neoliberal in domestic matters. If you look at Putin’s behaviour and policies in his early years (until 2005 or so), it was a fairly consistent pattern of market-oriented economics, relatively pro-American foreign policies, and little interest in the “conservative values” that he’s espoused off and on over the last few years. The only aspect of Putin’s worldview that turned him away from that course was his nationalism, and even that is of a state-oriented “patriotic” variety rather than of the ethnic variety. Putin never had any objections in principle to liberal capitalist internal policies and a pro-American foreign policy, he just found that, in the circumstances he was faced with, neither was consistent with the strong and influential Russian state that seems to be his chief objective. The irony is that, if circumstances and American behaviour had been just a little different at key junctures, Russia would likely be among America’s allies now (if most likely a slightly prickly one), and all Putin’s assorted fanboys would be hurling the same kinds of insults at him as they do at other American allies.

              In regard to the main issue, I don’t think Putin deserves criticism on this score. In the end, Russia is involved in Syria for its own reasons and has to keep watch on its own interests. Syria is an important interest to Russia, but it’s not a vital one. If Syria were to be taken over by al-Nusra, or (per impossibile) America were to finally find those “moderate”, organized and government-ready rebels it’s been searching for, and they turned Syria into a pro-Western bastion in the Middle East, the situation would not be ideal from Russia’s point of view. At the same time, though, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for Russia either. For that reason, there’s only a certain level of confrontation that Syria is really worth to Russia, and if it can keep the tensions between outside powers limited by brokering favourable agreements for defeated rebels, it’s probably a worthwhile trade-off from the Russian point of view. Of course, it’s not so great a deal from the point of view of the Syrian government, but that’s to be expected. The Syrian government is fairly dependent on Russia, and is in far better shape with Russia’s help than it would have been without it, so it has to accept that Russia will act with its own interests in mind as well.


              • Jen says:

                Syria is important to Russian military interests because Russia leases a naval facility at Tartus and uses it to station and repair ships of the Mediterranean flotilla of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet.


            • Jen says:

              My understanding is that several people now write for The Saker so there is going to be inconsistent and often quite emotional opinion in what the blog puts out. That will attract a lot of commenters who share similar feelings and opinions as Karl1Haushofer about what Putin should or should not do. Some of these commenters likely harbour anti-Semitic sentiments and would not be too bothered about what happens to Syrian people themselves or to Bashar al Assad’s government, as long as Israel is suitably and sadistically chastised.

              People need to realise that Syria invited Russia to assist in its war against the jihadis, not take it over, and Russia is fighting and providing advice and support under strict rules of engagement.


      • Patient Observer says:

        One more thing, it was good to see Nutenayhoo walking with a portrait of a Soviet war hero and wearing the St. George ribbon. Would anyone expect to see Micron or Merkle doing the same? I considered that event a moral victory for Russia.


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