Who will stop the Islamic State?September 2, 2015
After an article by the Israeli news agency Ynet claimed, that a Russian expeditionary force has arrived in Syria to prepare air operations against IS (Islamic State) terrorists, the internet is abuzz with speculations and wise commentaries.
Ynet writes, that the current makeup of the expeditionary force is still unknown, but that Russian pilots, flying combat missions with fighter jets and attack helicopters in Syrian skies, will undoubtedly change the existing dynamics in the Middle East.
“The Russian arrivals have set up camp in a government-controlled airbase near Damascus. In the coming weeks thousands of additional military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisors, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and the pilots of course.”
Israeli news organizations are not known for their reliability and truthfulness. The infamous DEBKAfile agency for instance has discredited itself so profoundly by countless fake news stories that nobody cites its reports anymore.
DEBKAfile has also in this case tried to outdo the competitor Ynet with the following stunning details:
1. On Aug. 18, six of Russia’s advanced MIG-31 Foxhound interceptor aircraft landed at the Syrian Air Force’s Mezze Airbase, which is the military section of Damascus international airport. After the fighters landed, they were immediately followed by giant Russian Antonov AN-124 Condor cargo planes carrying 1,000 of Russia’s 9M133 Kornet anti-tank missiles.
The advanced jets are intended to serve as air support for the Russian units that arrive in Syria.
2. Before the Russian planes landed in Damascus, Moscow reached an agreement with Washington for the removal of NATO’s Patriot missile batteries from Turkey. The removal was carried out gradually during the month of August, thus preventing the possibility that NATO Patriot missiles could hit Russian fighters carrying out operations in Syrian airspace.
3. During the last week of August, a large number of Russian troops, mostly logistical teams whose job is to lay the groundwork for the arrival of the combat units, arrived in Syria. The troops were seen in Damascus and in Jablah district of Latakia province, where the Russian forces are building a military base.
4. Intelligence sources also report that Moscow has started to supply Damascus with satellite imagery of the ground situation on the different fronts.
Patriot missiles have indeed been removed from Turkey, which gives the DEBKAfile report some legitimacy, but it is nearly inconceivable that the Syrian military didn’t have access to Russian satellite data from the very onset of the conflict.
DEBKAfile also reports a complete paralysis of the CCFJ (US Central Command-Forward-Jordan), where operations of the Islamic rebels in southern Syria are coordinated by officers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, and the USA. According to DEBKAfile, operations of the CCFJ have been halted due to a conflict that erupted between the rebels and CENTCOM (US Central Command) about the cooperating with Jabhat Al-Nusra and other Al-Qaeda-linked groups.
This conflict was already reported years ago, it is nothing new and appears just to be the obligatory whitewashing of the USA from the accusation of fostering Islamic terrorism.
Both reports have to be viewed with extreme caution. They are most likely politically motivated, sending a message from Jerusalem to Moscow: “We know, where you are and what you are doing, and we will not let that thing go on unobstructed.”
Israel has bombed Syrian military installations several times and it doesn’t even need to fly into Syria to do that, its long range air to ground missiles easily reach Damascus from the safety of the Golan Heights area.
A week point of the reports is, that the mentioned MIG-31 are not counter-insurgency weapons but interceptor aircrafts. It would be much more logical to deploy SU-24 and SU-25 planes against IS.
The Russian military is defensive and not designed for military interventions far away from the Russian border, a military intervention in Syria would definitely be a logistical challenge.
An official from the Russian Defense Ministry flatly denied claims that Moscow will deploy fighter jets against IS (Islamic State). Speaking to Russian television channel RT, the official said: “There has been no redeployment of Russian combat aircraft to the Syrian Arab Republic. The Russian Air Force is at its permanent bases and carrying out normal troop training and combat duty.” After similar rumors in August Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov already stated that an intervention of the Russian military in the Syrian conflict was not on the agenda.
Alex Fishman, the author of Ynet’s report, refused to comment on the legitimacy of his sources, but the plausibility of the reported moves and correctly outlaid background facts demonstrate at least an advanced knowledge of the military situation.
Both reports (from Ynet and DEBKAfile) speak about a coordination of the impending Russian intervention between Moscow, Washington, and Teheran. Why would the USA do that? Why should it consent to Russian military moves when the longtime strategic goal of destroying Syria is after 4 years of a debilitating war and 300,000 deaths finally in reach?
There are several possible reasons:
1. Teaching a lesson and get even with megalomaniac Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
2. Teaching a lesson to mean-spirited, rude, dishonest, and utterly evil Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
3. Teaching a lesson to the imbecile Saudi rulers, who think they can outsmart their Western handlers with unapproved moves and attempts of a “seesaw policy.”
4. Luring Russia into a trap.
Many unexpected things can happen in such a delicate and complicated operation like a Russian air-campaign over Syria. The Islamic terrorists could suddenly possess sophisticated radar guided missiles able to overcome the electronic defenses of Russian fighter jets. Miraculously out of nowhere appearing unidentifiable aircrafts could shoot down the Russian jets. Captured Russian pilots could be burned alive in cages by IS. Israel could launch a devastating attack on the airfields near Damascus, destroying most of the Russian fleet on the ground.
As they say: All is fair in love and war.
5. There is also the remote possibility that US President Barack Obama had an unexpected epiphany and starts to worry about his legacy and the prospect, that in case of a nuclear war between the USA and Russia there will be no legacy.
Western diplomatic sources allegedly emphasized that the Obama administration is fully aware of the Russian intent to intervene directly in Syria, but has yet to issue any reaction. The absence of a vocal opposition from the Obama administration is compounded by a softened rhetoric (no more “butcher” Assad) and its cessation of calls for the ouster of Bashar al-Assad.
Al-Monitor in Washington, a Western propaganda instrument, recently published several articles by author Fehim Tastekin, which diverge from the usual storyline and show the Islamic rebels in an unfavorable light. Several other Western media channels seem to follow suit. Changed marching order? Or a sense that Syria has lost the battle against the Islamic insurgents and a more nuanced view doesn’t hurt the paramount cause of regime change anymore?
If there is indeed a Washington — Moscow coordination or even kind of rapprochement, will Samantha Power, Victoria Nuland, and Susan Rice allow this? Will Obama end like JFK?
There are many things going on under the surface which are not known and maybe never will be known. If there is indeed a Russian air-campaign, it will slowly creeping in and not start with a big bang. Russia will deny it even if the jets are carpet bombing IS territory. With or without Russian jets, it is clear that increased military efforts will be taken to prop up the Syrian army, because the consequences of a defeat would be catastrophic.
Dependable diplomatic sources recently reported that a series of negotiations had been held between the Russians and the Iranians, mainly focusing on IS and the threat it poses to the Syrian government. The influential Iranian Quds Force commander Major General Qasem Soleimani visited Moscow in the framework of these talks. As a result the Russians and the Iranians reached a strategic decision, which is: To undertake any effort necessary to preserve the Syrian state, so that Syria may act as a security barrier and prevent the spread of IS and other Islamist militias into the former Soviet republics with an Islamic majority.
Russia has also economic interests, as the present Syrian government prevents the passage of regional pipelines from Qatar and Saudi Arabia into Europe, which would be a threat to Gazprom’s market share.
The Iranians and the Russians have begun the struggle to reequip the Syrian army, which has been left in tatters by the four years of war against tens of thousands well funded and thoroughly supported terrorist invaders. They intend not only to equip the army, but also to train and reorganize it. During the entire duration of the war, the Russians have consistently sent weapons supply ships to the port of Tartus on a weekly basis. The ships bring missiles, replacement parts, and various types of ammunition for the Syrian army.
Arab media outlets have published reports that Syria and Russia were looking for an additional port on the Syrian Mediterranean coast in order to hasten the pace of a Syrian rearmament. There are also reports that the Russians intend to sell Syria a package of MiG-29 fighters and Yak-130 trainer jets (which can also serve as attack planes.)
A stepped up military effort by Russia is inevitable, because the Syrian Arab Army can barely hold ground and is in full scale retreat in the strategic southwestern province of Idlib. Just recently a force from Jaysh al-Fatah (a coalition of rebel groups including Jabhat al-Nusra) advanced on the Abu Duhur military airfield in Iblib province, which borders on Latakia. Alawite and Christian residents of the area have fled to the remaining Alawite enclaves along the country’s coastline. On August 31 IS launched a surprise attack on the Qadam district of southern Damascus and took over parts of the district.
If the Israeli reports are true, it would be again brilliant policy. In a decisive move Russian President Putin, who until this moment has been officially non-committed in regard to Syria’s various internal wars, border violations, and external aggressions, would just have made the one step that puts everyone else in check: With Russian forces in Damascus implicitly supporting and guarding Assad, the Western plans would instantly fall apart.
And just like the US and Turkish air forces are supposedly in the region to “eradicate the IS threat”, there couldn’t be any possible complaints that Russia has also decided to take its fight to the jihadist monsters – even if it is doing so from the territory of what the real goal of US and Turkish interventions is: Syria.
After all, joining the fight against IS should only be laudable, or not?
Unfortunately it is also entirely possible that, though the USA can’t possibly admit that the whole situation is one made up farce, the world will witness the first war where everyone is fighting a dummy, proxy enemy which doesn’t exist (at least not in the portrayed form), when in reality the Western powers are fighting Russia and its Middle Eastern allies Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
A frightening prospect and a dangerous escalation. Good to know that Russian President Putin is a cautious person and that he has a record of avoiding risks. He will hopefully not gamble away our future in a nuclear confrontation, even if that means free rein to the IS = US monsters.