"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What Will Year Two of Russia's Syria Intervention Bring? (Fabrice Balanche- The Washington Institute)

Moscow and Iran are already several steps ahead of Washington in shaping the war's potential endgame, so the next administration will need to be mindful of Putin's likeliest strategies and strongest levers if it wants a different outcome.

When Moscow deployed forces to Syria last September, the move appeared to be part of its wider global policy of restoring Russian power outside the old Soviet sphere, rebalancing its international relations to America's detriment, and increasing its presence in a region where the current U.S. administration seems eager to disengage. To succeed, this policy requires a military victory on the ground, which can only be obtained through collaboration with Iran and its proxies in Syria, negotiations with Turkey, and arrangements that limit the U.S. role in the war.


Iran and Russia need each other in Syria. An August 30 article in the London Daily Mail cited claims by "activists" that Iran controls around 60,000 Shiite fighters in Syria; whatever their true numbers, these forces are indispensable for launching offensives because Syria's regular army is worn out and unable to recruit effectively. Russia's powerful air force plays a crucial role in supporting these ground forces. As the recent fighting in Aleppo showed, Shiite militias, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Russian air power complement each other well in helping Bashar al-Assad's regime win battlefield victories.
In addition, Tehran and Moscow are more or less dividing Syria into two de facto zones of control: the southwest for the Iranians and the northwest and Palmyra for Russia. Although Iranian proxy forces are of course involved in the northwestern campaigns, Russia rarely intervenes in the south. The only major exception occurred this January, when it provided air support for the operation to retake Sheikh Maskin on the road to Deraa. This action worried Israel because Moscow had promised that its forces would not support pro-Iranian militias south of Damascus.