Russia’s “Quagmire” In Syria Turns Out To Be A Well Designed Campaign – Moon of Alabama
Recent “Official Washington” headlines:
- U.S. to Putin: Welcome to the ISIS ‘Quagmire’ – Sep 29
- Obama: Russia heading for ‘quagmire’ in Syria – Oct 2
- Russia’s ‘quagmire’ destroys all hope of defeating ISIS – Oct 16
- Russians support airstrikes in Syria, despite haunting memories of quagmire in Afghanistan – Oct 20
- Russia risks Syrian quagmire -U.S. deputy secretary of state – Oct 31
- The Syrian quagmire – Nov 3
- Putin’s Quagmire in Syria Proves Obama Prescient – Dec 9
- Putin’s Middle East Misadventures – Dec 11
- Is Syria Already A Quagmire For Putin? – Dec 12
The above was all nonsense and propaganda. It represented the typical self delusion of the Washington establishment. The Russian government and military knew exactly what they were doing. After some 100 days of Russian military support for the Syrian government the results are coming in. They look well. The Islamic State lost most of its oil income and is reduced in its capabilities. The Syrian army and its allies are progressing against they various enemies on several fronts. The costs of Russia’s expedition is relatively small.
This reality is now setting in.
Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.
“I think it’s indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was,” said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity. Five other U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters concurred with the view that the Russian mission has been mostly successful so far and is facing relatively low costs.The U.S. officials stressed that Putin could face serious problems the longer his involvement in the more than four-year-old civil war drags on.
Yet since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation’s cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia’s regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said.
With the Russian help time is now in favor of the Syrian government’s position. As longer it takes to get to some negotiated end-state with the various groups supported from the outside, the less power on the ground and the less say in the outcome will those groups and their sponsors have. The Islamic State and several other Salafi groups like Ahrar al Sham will shrink back into underground terrorist forces. These will be able to continue random attacks but will not be able to hold ground. Unfortunately incidents like today’s triple suicide bombing in Homs, which killed some 50 civilians, will continue to occur for some time. The biggest challenge will be the defeat of al-Qaeda in Syria under the name Jabhat al-Nusra. That group has pushed roots into the local ground and population and will be the hardest to eradicate. It will have to be isolated from its sponsors and all resupply before it can be defeated. Local intelligence will have to penetrate the group to go after its leadership.
Russia has not yet brought its full power to bear in Syria. It waits until a more complete intelligence picture has formed to pursue smaller and smaller opposition units. This may take some additional month. The big government offense against its enemies in Idleb province and city is also still in preparation. Unless some unforeseen exterior event happens it will be the major move over the next six month.