This article originally appeared at The Unz Review
I think that a week after Ynet broke the story about a Russian military intervention in Syria we can confidently say that that this was a typical PSYOP aimed at inhibiting the Russian involvement in the Empire’s war against Syria and that it had no basis in reality.
Or did it?
It turns out that there was a small kernel of truth to these stories. No, Russia was not sending “MiG-31s to bomb Daesh”, nor is Russian going to send an SSNB (submarine armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles) to the Syrian coast. All these rumors are utter nonsense. But there are increasing signs that Russia is doing two thing:
1) increasing her diplomatic involvement in the Syrian conflict
2) delivering some unspecified but important military gear to Syria
The second item is the one which is most interesting. Needless to say, as is typical in these cases, the actual contents of the cargo Russia is sending by air and sea is not made public, but we can speculate. First, we know that Syria needs a lot of spare parts and equipment repairs. This war has been going on for 4 years now and the Syrians have made intensive use of their equipment. Second, the Syrians lack some battlefield systems which could greatly help them. Examples of that include counter-battery radars (radars which spot where the enemy’s artillery is shooting from) and electronic warfare systems. Furthermore, Russian sources are saying that Syria needs more armored personnnel carriers.
We know that Russia and Syria have long standing military contracts and we know that Russia is now delivering her heavy equipment by sea and the lighter systems by air. Does all that indicate some kind of game changer?
No. At least not at this point in time.
So why the panic?
My feeling is that one thing which makes the Empire so nervous is that the Russian apparently have chosen the city of Latakia as their “delivery point”. Unlike Damascus, Latakia is an ideal location: it is safe but not too far away from the frontlines, and it is relatively near the Russian base in Tartus. The airport and naval port are also reportedly easy to protect and isolate. There are already reports that the Russians have lengthened the runways and improved the infrastructure at the Latakia airport and that heavy AN-124s have been observed landing there. As for the Russian Navy – it has been sending ships to the Latakia airport.
In other words, instead of limiting themselves to Tartus or going into the very exposed Damascus, the Russians appear to have created a new bridgehead in the north of the country which could be used to deliver equipment, and even forces, to the combat area in the north of the country.
This, by the way, would also explain the panicked rumors about the Russians sending in their Naval Infantry units from Crimea to Syria: Naval Infantry forces are ideal to protect such a base and considering that the front lines are not that far, it would make perfect sense for the Russians to secure their bridgehead with these units.
Furthermore, while heavy equipment is typically sent by the sea, the Russians can deliver their air defense systems by air: The AN-124 is more than capable of transporing S-300s. That fact alone would explain the Empire’s panic.
What appears to be happening is this: the Russians are, apparently, sending somelimited but important gear to provide immediate assistance to the Syrian forces. In doing so, they have also created the conditions to keep their options open. So while there is not massive Russian intervention taking place, something has definitely shifted in the Syrian conflict.
I would like to add here that while the government forces have recently lost the Idlib air base in the north of the country (and not too far from Latakia), all my sources confirm to me that the Syrian forces are in a much better position than Daesh and that the war is going very badly for the Takfiris. The Syrians have recently freed the city of Zabadan and they are on the offensive in most locations and while it is true that Daesh still controls a lot of land, most of that is desert.
To summarize the above I would say this: the Empire is freaking out because their war against Syria has failed; while Daesh has created havoc and terror in several countries, there are many signs that the local countries are gradually becoming determined to do something.
The US has also failed to get rid of Assad, the massive refugee crisis has triggered a major political crisis in Europe, and now the Europeans are looking at Assad in a dramatically different light than before.
Russia has clearly decide to get politically involved with all the regional powers, effectively displacing the USA, and there are pretty good indications that the Russians are keeping their options open. And while there are absolutely no reasons to suspect that Russia is planning a major military intervention in the conflict in terms of quantity, there are signs that the Russian support has risen to a new qualitative level.
Two things need to be stressed here:
First, on a political level, it is still exceedingly unlikely that Russia would take any major unilateral action in this war. While Syria is a sovereign country and while a Syrian-Russian agreement is enough to legally justify any military move agreed to by both parties, Russia will try hard not to act alone. This explains why Foreign Ministery Lavrov is trying so hard to create some kind of coalition.
Second, on a military level, the country to look at is not Russia but Iran. The Iranians have a safe and secure land-line to Syria (via northern Iraq) and they have the kind of combat forces which could be successfully engage against Daesh. The same goes for Hezbollah which has, and will in the future, send its elite forces to support the Syrians in strategically vital areas. Should there be a need for a major ground operation in support of the Syrian forces, these are the forces we should expect to intervene, not the Russians.
In conclusion I would say that what we see taking place it “typical Putin”: while western leaders typically prefer high visibility actions which bring immediate (but short term) results, Putin prefers to let his opponent inflict the maximal amount of damage upon himself before intervening in gradual, slow steps. The unleashing of Daesh by the Empire was a kind of a “political shock and awe” which did almost overthrow the Syrian government. When that initial “fast-acting” but short term strategy failed, Assad was still there, but Daesh had turned into a Golem monster which threatened everybody and which nobody could control. As for Assad, he was gradually downgraded from being a “new Hitler” gassing his own people into somebody who will clearly be a part of the solution (whatever “solution” will eventually emerge).
The lesson for all those who resist the Empire is obvious: the hardest thing is to remain standing after the first “blow” delivered by the imperial forces. If you can survive it (as the Donbass and Syria have done), then time is on your side and the position of the Empire will begin to weaken slowly but surely because of its own internal contradictions. When that process being, you must not fall into the trap of over-committment, but gradually occupy each position (political or other) given up by the Empire in the process of the disintegration while securing your own each step of the way.
It is way too early for any triumphalism – Daesh is still here, and so is the Nazi-friendly regime in Kiev, and the Empire has not given up on them quite yet. The good news is that the tide has now visibly turned and while there is still a long struggle ahead, the eventual defeat of the Takfiris and Nazis appears to be inevitable.