Continuing with Krutikov’s piece entitled: “An Overly Liberal Attitude Towards the Militants Is Leading Syria To Disintegration”. Where we left off, the Al Qaeda grouplet Tahrir Al-Sham had bargained their way (and overly favorable conditions) out of the Damascus suburbs and into the Terrorist Sanctuary of Idlib. Krutikov is critical of this “overly liberal” kid-gloves treatment of the militants, and also of the Russian role in these various negotiations. He believes that it undermines the authority of the Damascus army and police; and could lead to the disintegration of the central Syrian government in the final analysis. Hence, his sounding of the alarm.
The fact that Russian negotiators are leading these efforts finds (perhaps counterintuitive) support from the local populations who have been recently liberated from the militants. In fact, according to Krutikov, it is the locals who insist on the Russian Military Police taking over policing functions in these villages; one does not need special psychic powers to guess the reason why this might be the case. The alternative being Syrian army/police conducting door-to-door searches and rounding up “the usual suspects”. As opposed to which, I reckon that the Russian soldiers are seen as the honest broker here, not being parties to the original feuds which, in addition to imperialist meddling, may have contributed to this egregious blow-up.
In the areas of Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk and Ar-Rastan, as well as numerous populated points in the Homs and Hama provinces, with the Headchoppers slinking away on air-conditioned luxury buses, administrative government has transferred back, or is in the process of transferring back, into the hands of the local organs elected by the citizens, supposedly under the assistance of the regional Governor. The goal is to return to civilian rule; hence the Syrian army, and especially the counter-intelligence forces (known as the Mukhabarat) are in principle excluded; not to mention the legendary pro-government Alawite paramilitaries known as the Shabiha. The influence of the civilian governors is limited to the distribution of humanitarian aid. In which process the Russian army — once again — plays a predominant role as honest broker, ensuring that nobody waltzes off with said humanitarian aid.
In other words, nothing in this process is conducive to reestablishment of central authority and leads, rather, to local and decentralized rule, in the cities and towns recently vacated by the terrorists. The local populations are getting used to administering themselves, relying on the Russian Military Police to guard them against the outside world. They gratefully accept the humanitarian aid while remaining in a state of self-rule.
Initially these trends were explained by the harshness of the Mukhabarat and Shabiha (in cleansing the villages of terrorists) in the first year of the counter-offensive. Things changed with the liberation of Eastern Aleppo, when the “kindly and tolerant” Russians put a stop to some of the harsher practices. This helped to increase local trust towards the Russians, and even to the Damascus government. But then things started to bend too far in the “tolerance” direction; to the point where verification and filtering of the population was almost completely done away with. People are no longer asked to produce their identification documents. It is considered mauvais ton to ask the impertinent question: “And what have you been doing for the past five years?”
[to be continued]