By Jawad Akram
It was 30th September 2015, when Russia entered the bloody and complex Syrian Civil War – started in 2011 – on the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A lot of local, regional and International Powers were engaged in this fierce battle already. Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIL) was expanding its own regime by territorial gains in Syria. Al-Qaeda was also present. Syrian Democratic Forces, Free Syrian Army, Syrian Turkmen Brigades and Jaysh al-Islam were trying to topple Bashar al-Assad. United States (US), Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar were to wipe off ISIL. And Iran, Iranian backed Hezbollah, along with Bashar al-Assad’s Army were to defend Bashar al-Assad regime and quell rebellion at any deadly cost.
But prior to the Moscow’s Incursion, Bashar al-Assad’s regime was shrinking gradually. His hold on a lot of Syrian territory was either lost or weakened. Wonks at Think Tanks were contemplating that sooner, Assad’s regime would fall and the existing setup of Government will collapse with serious ramifications. A grim aftermath similar to the fall of Muammar Qadaffi in Libya was being expected.
But Russia’s intervention in Syria started to change the slope of the war. Kremlin provided Damascus all sorts of Military assistance in form of weaponry, training and advisory. Kremlin remained a staunch backer of Syrian Government even when Assad was overwhelmed by criticism because of the use of Chemical Weapons by Syrian Military. Kremlin launched attacks on anti-Government forces by all means including aerial bombardment, cruise missile attacks, and via Special Forces on ground. Kremlin suffered a few casualties also in this mission, most notably a Russian Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, 51, was killed by shelling from Islamic State in Syria, in these days, but Kremlin’s long unwavering support has ultimately turned the tide of the war in Assad’s favor.
Although, Syrian Civil War is not over yet, but future of Assad’s regime looks much secure now, a lofty goal Kremlin has achieved. On the battlefield, no one remains who is willing and able to topple him. US President Trump has already cancelled the C.I.A. program that provided the Rebel Forces with arms and support. The ISIL is being routed from its strongholds.
Regional powers and Syrians themselves perceive that Bashar al-Assad will rule for years to come, albeit over a reduced country. His allies have begun to trumpet what they see as their looming victory, and his government is talking about rebuilding a shattered country which is in fact mostly a battered wasteland due to War. Some longtime rebel supporters have grown war-weary and started to accept their defeat.
Mr. Assad has succeeded in quelling the rebel threat, largely because of the steadfast financial and military support of his foreign backers; most important of those is Russia.
Kremlin was also able to use Syria as a lab for its latest weaponry. By workshopping newly-acquired precision cruise-missile strikes, Russia joined the United States in an exclusive arms club, proving that Russia is now becoming a Resurgent Super Power which is perhaps most important because the Kremlin’s intervention in Syria has reaffirmed Russia’s status as a global superpower which is capable of projecting force far from its own borders.
Moscow’s backing of Assad ensured it had channels with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, despite their support for Syrian rebels. It was even able to steer the Gulf to roll back its support for the rebels as a Russia-led victory for Assad’s regime became inevitable.
Russia’s most astonishing diplomatic victory was to change Turkey’s calculus in the war from a proxy adversary into a major partner in securing the decisive victory in Aleppo.
Moscow was also successful in restraining the US canvas of fight only up to defeating ISIL, and not to engaging in fight by proxy with Russia.
Now after two years of Russian’s Military Intervention, Assad might be feeling a sigh of relief but his victory is in fact a Victory of Russia i.e., Russia has won in Syria!
Jawad Akram is an International Affairs Analyst. He has done Masters in International Relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @jawad5677