The first week of 2016 was rich in developments around the Syrian conflict. One can draw preliminary conclusions about the mid-term tendencies of the Syrian conflict from the information that comes from “the Middle-East trap.”
It is no secret that the Syrian civil war is at a turning point due to the air strikes of the Russian Aerospace Force and the involvement of Iran’s land forces (fighting on the side of Syrian government army). The forces of the so-called “Free Syrian Army” and terrorist groups are losing ground along the front line. Suffering huge losses, the Daesh (IS, ISIL – terrorist organization banned in Russia) and Jabhat al-Nusra militants are in panic. They have to leave their positions and retreat to the Turkish border.
Along the Aleppo-Damascus-Latakia-Deir ez- Zour line, Daesh militants cede towns and villages to the Syrian government troops without fight. Those behind the Syrian chaos (U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) did not expect such efficient COMBINED EFFORTS from the anti-terrorist front (Russia, Syria, Iran, and partly Iraq). Consequently, on the first days of 2016, they launched the scheme to hamper the success of the pro-Assad forces. U.S., Turkey, and Saudi Arabia launched synchronous steps against Russia and Iran.
As the relations of Tehran with Sunni Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE have deteriorated sharply, diplomatic pressing from these countries with the conflict potentially growing into large-scale hostilities will probably hold Iran from further active involvement in the Syrian crisis. The situation with Russia is much more complicated. Most foreign experts think Russia is not afraid of sanctions. They say Russians have overcome Yeltsin’s shock and while Americans and Europeans were making boast of their invincibility, sending to scaffold leaders of countries that are dozens of thousands kilometers far from the Oval Room, and calling Russia a ‘periphery country,’ Russians were building their army “from zero” and have achieved impressive results with their logic so strange to Americans. And this army now demonstrates its fantastic efficiency just in front of the American bases in the Persian Gulf. If Russians are not stopped now, all the concept of spreading “American democracy” (read unipolar world) will be thrown to the trash can of history. How to stop Russia? Probably, one of the possible scenarios is a direct threat to the actions of the Russian Aerospace Force in Syria. Yet at the very beginning of the military campaign in Syria, high-ranking officials from the U.S. Administration warned the Russian leadership of “inevitable losses of Russian aircrafts,” brushing aside the fact that to destroy combat air forces, either advanced anti-aircraft defense system or fighter jets are needed - something the terrorist groups have not had until very recently. Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24 fighter jet to test the endurance of the Russian leadership and their decisiveness to further fight in Syria. In addition, it was an attempt to figure out Russia’s actions in case of possible threat to its steps in Syria. That attempt cost high to Turkey. Contrary to expectations, Russia continued its military build-up in Syria and actually retaliated to Turkey by increasing the attacks on the Turkey-controlled oil infrastructure of Daesh, which was the terrorist group’s vital source of financing. It is clear that in such situation both U.S. and Turkey were well aware that further provocations against Russia’s Aerospace Force by Turkey will lead to a direct military conflict that may spark a larger conflict between Russia and NATO. On January 6, The Daily Telegraph published an article that referred to Sky News TV saying Daesh is able to produce home-made thermal batteries for surface-to-air missiles. Specialists say even if by some miracle some “highly-educated” militants managed to create “homemade” electronic-chips for heat-seeking heads, it is impossible to launch and manage anti-aircraft missiles “by rule of thumb.” Such systems can be only SUPPLIED to the militants, and Turkey or Saudi Arabia will most probable do it. Formally, it will look like the militants in the destroyed Rakka made launching pads and started shooting down Russian aircrafts. Probably, those behind this information leakage think that even hypothetical (but most probably, real) existence of air defense systems will make Russia less active in Syria and remove one of the most important factors of the pro-Assad forces’ success in the Syrian conflict avoiding a direct clash of Turkey and Russia. It is possible that the military-political pressure on Iran, probable anti-missile systems of the terrorist groups, as well as Turkey’s military build-up along the Syrian-Turkish border will make Russia, Syria and Iran correct their strategy. How and what will the anti-terrorist coalition (Russia, Iran, Syria) do will become clear within the coming days.
Arman Abovyan, political analyst (Yerevan) for EADaily