Syria watchers were caught off guard at the sudden announcement that Russia is withdrawing a substantial proportion of its aerial forces in Latakia. Its bombers based there had devastated the US-backed terrorist groups in Syria by destroying their oil smuggling routes and supply lines to and from Turkey, and more recently by providing air cover for the Syrian Arab Army to attack concentrations of ISIS forces. These military gains forced the US to call for a new round of peace talks. Given that the military situation left the US and its terrorist-sponsoring allies in a weak negotiating position, many interpreted this sudden call for diplomacy as a ruse. They saw it as a pretext for using a cessation of hostilities as an opportunity to regroup for a new wave of attacks. These cynics were mistaken, as anyone with a proper appreciation for the abilities of Putin and his generals should have realized. To maintain that argument now, in the face of the Russian withdrawal, they would have to argue that Putin and the Russian military are so foolhardy that they not only let the enemy regroup, but yielded the field to them.
This would not be the first time that Obama has challenged the neocons. He shocked America and the world when he called for a debate in Congress before attacking Syria after the US claimed without evidence that "Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people." In the post-9/11 world, that was the only justification Americans would have expected or needed. Despite his saber rattling after the false flag attack on Ghouta, Obama had Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey announce that there was no urgent need to act without a debate, which he called for. Congress heard loud and clear from the public that they had no stomach for yet another American war in the Mideast.
If anyone thought that this was just a misjudgment by Obama, they must not have made the connection to the call for negotiations with Iran immediately afterward. Again, he played the game of repeating the neocon lies while doing everything he could to interfere with their plans to widen the conflict to Iran. Although there was no more evidence that Iran had a nuclear weapons program than there was for a Syrian government attack on Ghouta, the action enraged the Saudis, their Israeli friends and neocons in the US.
When Erdogan shot down a Russian jet in an unequivocal act of war, well-informed analysts confidently proclaimed that the US was calling all the shots. They assumed that Erdogan was acting on US orders in that attack, in repeated border incursions and in generally destabilizing the situation. These provocations in response to the proposal for negotiations seemed to justify the fears of those who saw a US hand in his actions, but others argued that Turkey was acting independently. They realized that Erdogan's political power could be undermined by a failed foreign policy coming on top of a flagging economy. As a result, the argument went, he was more likely out of Washington's control. It was not the US but Erdogan who was risking WWIII, or at least a military coup.
Unnoticed by many, Russia has been using the relative calm of
the ceasefire to enter "rebel" held areas to negotiate
local truces and security agreements, creating conditions for a more
comprehensive settlement. At the same time, Russia
is advocating that genuinely moderate (ie, nonviolent) opposition groups have representation
in the settlement negotiations, setting the stage for real reforms in Syria
despite powerful pressures on Assad by various power blocs in the Syrian deep
state seeking to maintain the status quo. Putin's announcement of a planned
withdrawal of "the main part" of Russian forces in response to the "overall
completion" of its military aims means that facts on the ground have changed
enough in favor of the Syrian government that further direct military
intervention at this point would be counterproductive. The fact that Assad backs
the withdrawal would seem to support this.
Obviously, the idea that the US may actually be looking for a relatively clean exit from Syria is too good to be true for those who habitually warn of the imminent takeover of the world by a neocon establishment. The fact is, it has far overreached itself in its attempts to dominate the world militarily. There is no doubt that they are still determined to succeed, or that they have tremendous influence over US foreign policy. However, it is clear that there are some in the US government, military and even intelligence community with enough common sense and courage to be calling for some limits on the use of American military force. It may be too late to save the US from the consequences of its history of imperialism, but there is still time to allow the development of a multipolar world where true democracy may someday emerge.