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.
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.
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]