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

Dear Readers:

Today finishing my review of Krutikov’s piece entitled:  “An Overly Liberal Attitude Towards the Militants Is Leading Syria To Disintegration”.  Specifically, Krutikov is worried that decentralized governments are emerging in the areas recently cleansed of jihadists.  In order to reassert its authority, the central Damascus government, army and police need to have at least some repressive capabilities, in case any really egregious jihadists stayed behind to foment trouble.  But, according to Krutikov, the Russian Military Police, with an overly laissez-faire attitude are preventing their Syrian friends from conducting such filtering operations and door-to-door searches.  A former terrorist can simply trim his beard and stroll around wherever he likes without showing an ID, and the terrorists can also get fake ID’s to hide themselves and what they were doing during the past five years of war.  When questioned, a person can just cavalierly claim that he lost his documents, pass himself off as a terrified war refugee, and invent for himself a new name; which gets validated with a Russian stamp.  And so he gets a laminated ration card.

Example of American-based ration for Arabs

As a result, the central government has lost some authority, the locals only listen to their locally-elected officials, and some of them only trust the Russians anyhow.  It also seems that Russia has acquired quite a lot of power over the lives of these ordinary people, since they are the ones stamping the ration cards!

It was precisely this necessity to feed hungry people very quickly, that led to the disintegration of proper “kontr-razvedka” (counter-intelligence).  Shortcuts had to be taken, and chaos theory took over.  There were incidents of terrorist sleeper-cells committing diversions in the rear.

All of this is highly upsetting to the legitimate repressive organs of the Syrian state.  The newspaper VZGLIAD was able to get exclusive and secret interviews with disgruntled members of the Mukhabarat (the Syrian secret police).  It goes without saying that Krutikov feels a professional affinity with these agents, since he himself used to be in the KGB, therefore he and they would tend to share the same professional attitude to problem-solving.

A Mukhabarat officer and a local volunteer

Anyhow, according to Krutikov, the Mukhabarat feel that their influence in the Syrian government is being diminished, especially with the restrictions of their duties on the battlefield.  They helped to win the war, but feel they are being pushed out of the process to win the peace.  This situation has led to more friction within the Damascus government; and that’s an unpleasant thing, especially from the political point of view.  Given that the liberated territories are not yet properly re-integrated into the unified national identity.

In Douma and Eastern Ghouta, recently liberated from the terrorists, the Russian Military Police are calling the shots; and not even allowing government forces in.  The local population are taking full advantage of this situation, secretly flipping off the Damascus government while under the protection of their “older brothers”, the Russians.

Well, so be it.  But Krutikov sees a risk that these guys (in Douma, for example) might try to take it even further and demand autonomy.  And if they get it, then a thousand other towns will demand it too.  The danger is not that Syria will be transformed into a Federation, but that it will disintegrate and collapse altogether.  And that is unacceptable, and cannot be allowed to happen.

What Is To Be Done?

In the final few paragraphs, Krutikov seems to, sort of, go back on some of the things he was saying before, and offer a more moderate approach to the problems that he has detected.

Krutikov is not calling for the Mukhabarat to be allowed to run wild and cleanse all of Douma.  But he believes it is necessary to work out a new method of civilian government for the territories and regions.  Otherwise, the formation of a New Syria will go into a dead end; and even the ability to conduct uniform elections across the whole of Syria might be brought into question.

The good news is that the Eastern Aleppo situation was resolved satisfactorily.  And perhaps a uniform solution for all of the Syrian regions is not even possible.  But at the very least, it is necessary to go very quickly to a “passportization” system:  Everybody must carry a verified passport.  And then to gradually restore civilian authority, while avoiding excessive “cleansing” and excessive violence.  Experience shows, that winning the peace is several degrees more difficult, than winning the war!

The temptation to resolve these issues with the brute force of the Shabiha has been avoided.  Now is the time to think with one’s head.  And this is an area where the Russians can shine.

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