Re-Thinking the Victory of Russia in Syria
By Sunday Orinya
In September 2015, Russia took the initiative of intervening in the Syrian crisis on the side of the Bashar al-Assad government. It was a move many analysts saw as an open confrontation with the United States that was clearly fixated in its desperation to end the tenure of the Assad regime. The US, prior to Russia involvement, was the major payer and was dictating the tune alongside its major NATO allies in Syria.
The rebels assisted by the US were clearly having upper hand and Syria was gradually becoming a safe haven for many terrorist groups. But things changed dramatically the moment Russia entered the fray. The US gave full assistance in cash and kinds to the rebels populated by Islamic fundamentalists to enable them topple the regime in Damascus. The situation was such that some ISIS groups were reported to be beneficiaries of the US largesse in the belief that they would sack Assad!
During the military operations, the Russian Air Force achieved great successes, which allowed the Syrian army to go on the offensive against the rebels and the Islamic terrorists. Through a strategic operation, the Russian Air Force ensured that strategic locations were targeted. Terrorists were prevented from giving their financial and logistical help to their “brothers in arms”. This was done by intensification of airstrikes against sources of finance and logistics of the bandits that were spreading terrorism across the globe.
There is no doubt that the Russia efforts in Syria mitigated the deadly activities of terrorists especially in the Middle East, Africa and indeed the world. But the US and the Persian Gulf monarchs continue to blame Russia, which saves the Middle East and Africa from the bloody expansion of terrorists, in all their sins. Without Russia, the so-called international mediators would have continued their calls for a cease-fire allowing the extremists to regroup.
Russian persistent attacks that destroyed the bases and infrastructure of terrorists forced them to flee indiscriminately. It is clear that the effective strikes of Russian air units and the offensive of the Syrian Army did not only degrade the fire power of the terrorists but also exposed the weakness of Western diplomacy given the situation.
Tremendous pressure was brought to bear on Russia. Media reports, especially those from the West, saw nothing good in what Moscow was doing. It is now obvious to many analysts that the support for Bashar Assad by militias, Iranian volunteers and Russian Air Force has helped to reduce the activities of terrorists in the region. Terrorists suffered huge losses, throwing away their equipment and weapons as they run away for their lives.
This offensive prevented them from establishing their caliphate. They were also unable to provide sufficient material, technical and financial assistance to other affiliate terrorist fighters to carryout their dastardly act as they wished. The attack ensured that they were thoroughly incapacitated by the persistent bombardment by the Russian Air Force. They lost thousands of fighters, hundreds of combat and automotive equipment. It got so bad that they were reports of ISIS dumping corpses of their members into pits against Islamic tradition.
This offensive led to restoration of control by government forces over certain strategic areas. It also made it extremely difficult for the bandits to get supply of ammunition, fuel and food. Above all, the major source of their funding, which was smuggling of stolen oil from Syrian and Iraqi territories was cut off.
It is curious that the North Atlantic alliance throughout this period was uncomfortable with the strategic role Russia was playing. It could be explained that Moscow intervention in Syrian is for its strategic interest but the result it has produced is in the interest of all of those that are against terrorism. For instance, it is because Russia is still in Syria that the US President, Donald Trump could think of unilaterally withdrawing 2000 US soldiers stationed there.
Syria owes its survival today to the benevolence of Russia and Iran. Unlike Iraq, Syria is expected to undergo a revival process, with the help of its allies that will make her come out as a strong regional power. This is a clear departure from the US failed strategy in Iraq that turned the once prosperous nation to a complete wreck. Like Russian diplomats have always maintained, the West is accustomed to impunity from its own military interventions.
Having put an end to one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent years, Russia will be able to bring the settlement of the Syrian crisis to the list of its biggest foreign policy victories. On a par with the United States, it is now a power with significant influence in the Middle East. Obviously, Moscow has regained the strategic initiative that it lost to the West after the end of the Cold War. It is now an active participant in the international arena as the events in Syria have shown.
Just like the end of the Cold War marked a turning point in global politics, so also has the re-entry of Russia Federation into international political reckoning. The good thing is that the developing countries now have choices to make in terms of which country to relate with and for what purpose. To think otherwise is perilous.
The Syria experience provides us with a lesson we cannot ignore. The Western approach of using the sins of leaders to punish innocent citizens has proved to be catastrophic. By refusing to sell arms to the Nigerian government under Goodluck Jonathan to fight Boko Haram, the US government put the lives of Nigerians at risk. Boko Haram has been allowed to grow into a behemoth that it is today in Nigeria’s North East because our so-called ally abandoned us at our time of need. May be we need Russia. I am just thinking.