Reprinted from Counterpunch
The reason Putin will succeed where the US failed in its war on ISIS, is because the Russian air-strikes are going to be accompanied by a formidable mop-up operation that will overpower the jihadi groups on the ground. This is already happening as we speak. The Russian Air Force has been pounding terrorist targets across the Idlib Governorate for the last few days as well as ISIS strongholds in the East at Raffa.
On Sunday, according to a report filed by South Front, roughly 700 militants surrendered to members of the 147th Syrian tank brigade shortly after bombers had attacked nearly cities of Mardeij, Ma'arat Al-Nu'man, Jisr Al-Shughour, Saraqib and Sarmeen. This is the pattern we expect to see in the weeks ahead. Russian bombers will soften targets on the frontlines, ground troops will move into position, and untold numbers of jihadis will either flee, surrender or get cut down where they stand. Bottom line: Syria is not going to be a quagmire as the media has predicted. To the contrary, Putin is going to cut through these guys like crap through a goose.
According to South Front: "Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Main Operation Directorate of the General Staff of Russia's armed forces, said the strikes have significantly reduced the terrorists' combat capabilities." In other words, the Russian offensive is already producing positive results. This is no small matter. By most accounts, the conflict had deteriorated into a stalemate. Now, with Russia in the picture, that's changed. Now the table is clearly tilted in Syria's favor.
Also, according to an earlier report: "The positioning of Russian aircraft in Syria gives the Kremlin the ability to shape and control the battle-space in both Syria and Iraq out of all proportion to the size of the Russian force." ("International Military Review -- Syria, Oct 5, 2015," South Front)
The Russian air-base at Latakia is perfectly situated for providing air cover or bombing terrorist targets across the country. The Russian airforce will also make every effort to cut off supply lines and escape routes so that as many jihadis as possible are liquidated within Syria's borders. This is why ISIS positions along the main highway to Iraq were destroyed on Sunday. The jihadi thugs will be given every chance to die in battle as they wish, but getting out alive is not going to be so easy.
There was an article in the Guardian on Sunday that caused quite a stir among people who are following events in Syria. Here's a clip:
"Regional powers have quietly, but effectively, channeled funds, weapons and other support to rebel groups making the biggest inroads against the forces from Damascus"...In a week when Russia made dozens of bombing raids, those countries have made it clear that they remain at least as committed to removing Assad as Moscow is to preserving him.
"'There is no future for Assad in Syria,' Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir warned, a few hours before the first Russian bombing sorties began. If that was not blunt enough, he spelled out that if the president did not step down as part of a political transition, his country would embrace a military option, 'which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power.' With at least 39 civilians reported dead in the first bombing raids, the prospect of an escalation between backers of Assad and his opponents is likely to spell more misery for ordinary Syrians.
"'The Russian intervention is a massive setback for those states backing the opposition, particularly within the region -- Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- and is likely to elicit a strong response in terms of a counter-escalation,' said Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations." ("Gulf states plan military response as Putin raises the stakes in Syria," Guardian)
Saudi Arabia poses no real threat to Putin's operation in Syria. The Saudis may talk tough, but they already have their hands full with a crashing economy (due to plunging oil prices) and a war in Yemen they have no chance of winning. They're certainly not going to get more deeply involved in Syria.
It is possible, however, that the Obama administration is planning to use the Saudis as cover for shoring up their support for opposition groups within Syria. There is a high probability that that will happen. Even so, there's not an endless pool of crackpot mercenaries who want to face a modern airforce with precision-guided munitions for a couple hundred bucks a week. That's not what you'd call "a job with a future." Keep in mind, the various Intel agencies have already called in their chits and attracted as many of these dead-enders as they possibly could from far-flung places like Chechnya, Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan etc. And while I'm sure Langley keeps a lengthy file of potential candidates for future assignments, I'm also sure that there are a limited number of people who are willing to meet their Maker just so they can belong to some renegade organization and die with a machine gun in their hands. In fact, we may have already reached "peak terrorist" after which there could be a steady fall-off following the downward trajectory of US power in the Middle East and around the world. As we shall undoubtedly see in the months ahead, Syria could very well be the straw that broke the Empire's back. Here's more from the Guardian:
"'The best way to respond to the Russian intervention is to engage the rebels more and step up support so they can face down the escalation and create a balance on the ground,' he said. 'The Russians will [then] realise there are limits to what they can achieve in Syria, and modify their approach.' But the wider regional struggle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran makes it almost impossible for Riyadh to walk away, whatever the cost." (Guardian)
Is it just me or does the author of this piece sound positively elated at the prospect of a bloodier war?
Also, it would have been helpful if he had mentioned that arming, funding and training disparate jihadi organizations to effect regime change in a sovereign nation is a violation of international law and the UN Charter. Of course, maybe the author thought that would have made his article too stuffy or pedantic? In any event, the idea that the enfeebled Saudis are going to derail the Russia-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance in their drive to annihilate ISIS and al-Qaida-linked groups is a pipe-dream. The only country that could make a difference in the outcome, is the United States. And, the fact is, Washington's neocons don't have the cojones to take on Moscow mano-a-mano, so Putin's clean-up operation is going to continue on schedule.
By the way, the pundits were wrong about the way the Russian people would react to Moscow's involvement in Syria, too. As it happens, they're quite proud of the way their forces have been conducting themselves. Of course, who wouldn't be? They've been kicking ass and taking names since Day 1. Check out this report from CBS News: