It is well known that Russia’s political leadership is growing ever more insistent that the military conflict in Syria shifts towards a negotiated political settlement in order to stem the bloodshed and regularise the situation on the ground in a country that has lived under the cloud of hybrid-terrorist warfare since 2011. Of course within this framework, Russian military advisers on the ground as well as Russian airmen and sailors are helping Syria to fight the last remaining pockets of Takfiri terrorists as more and more territory becomes fully liberated.
Even at this late hour in terms of the initial anti-Takfiri stage of the conflict, Russian advisers remain on the front lines of the battle as was made clear when yesterday four Russians were martyred after having sustained wounds during a terrorist shelling of a Syrian Arab Army position in Deir ez-Zor.
According to a statement from the Russian Defence Ministry,
“Several groups of terrorists attacked an artillery battery of the Syrian government forces at night in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor. Two Russian military advisers, who directed the fire of the Syrian artillery, were killed on the spot. Five more servicemen were injured and were taken to the hospital immediately”.
Of the five injured servicemen, two have died of their injuries. This tragic incident ought to force many international observers to take pause when they conflate political arguments with a clear misunderstanding of the military realities of the late stage conflict. It cannot be denied that many so-called alt-media and social media pundits and observers (almost all of whom are not Syrian) have recently engaged in a campaign of mass slander against Russia based on a broad misunderstanding of Moscow’s desire to see the conflict in Syria transition to a political settlement.
This in no way represents a “betrayal” of Syria and the real shame is that only with four young Russian servicemen dead, might certain observers become acquainted with a reality that is far more nuanced than simplistic slogans would indicate.
Russia has in no way neglected or negated its mandate to help the Syrian Arab Republic in its fight against Takfiri terrorist groups on the ground in Syria. Rather, because Russia is aware that compared to even six months agom the presence of Takfiri terrorist groups in Syria is at its lowest since the war began, with the final victories against such groups being a question of “when” rather than a more haunting question of “if”. In Moscow’s view, having fulfilled its anti-terrorist mandate, it is now time to work on the next stage of the conflict in the form of a conflict resolution programme.
Russia is keenly aware that in spite of the collective adrenaline felt among many heroic anti-terrorist fighters in Syria, that if the current stage of the conflict is allowed to slide into a wider traditional war between “Israel” and Iranian forces (actual ones and those presumed to be Iranian), the first and most numerous victims of such a conflict will be the long-suffering Syrian civilians and that furthermore, there is no guarantee that such a war would be anything other than a victory for the “Israeli” forces. For all the improvements to Syria’s missile defence systems, “Israel” is still the most heavily armed regime in the region.
The other necessarily cautionary elements inherent in Russia’s eagerness to begin the negotiated political process is a desire to take away any remaining justification for a long-term US occupation of Syria. Russia, like Turkey, has no interest in directly confronting the US in Syria, even though Russia and Turkey are both on the record multiple times in seeking a US withdrawal. Instead, Russia seeks to kick-start a peace process that can satisfy the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and in so doing, destroy what little credibility the US and its European allies have in their protracted illegal political and military antagonism of Syria.
Ultimately, Russia and Syria seek the same long-term goals, the difference is that Russia’s gradualist plan for the political liberation of Syria is at times at odds with the Iranian plan to aid Syria military in liberating “every inch” of the Syrian Arab Republic from occupation as an outgrowth of the current conflict.
Of course, Syria is neither under an obligation to Iran nor to Russia. Damascus has the sovereign right to pick and choose from both plans or ultimately reject both. But for pundits to say that Russia has betrayed Syria is not only insulting but in the present context it is obscene.
Four Russian servicemen have died, not to secure Russian regional assets which have for years been secure, but to help Syria fight terrorism. Anything but expressions of gratitude for this ultimate sacrifice will make many Russians question what their men are doing in Syria when fellow-Russians are being slaughtered in Donbass while Moscow looks the other way.