'Skinny' results 100 days of the Russian intervention in Syria

Disappointing results on the ground will force Moscow - sooner or later - to come up with an alternative strategy.

By Samer Elias

Far from the goals that the Kremlin announced to the public in order to justify Russia's military intervention in Syria, the day becomes increasingly clear its real causes and the horizon, as well as its impact on the future of Syria and Russia alike.

Moscow has used the failure of the international coalition to achieve concrete results in the fight against the armed group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, despite the fact that a year has passed since the coalition launched their attacks. Russian media machine participated in the promotion of the danger of eventual fall of Damascus in the hands of fighters Daesha (ISIL) that are deployed in the southern parts of the city, but then, at the end of September last year, began with the first preparations for the Russian military intervention beyond the boundaries of the former Soviet Union since its breakup in 1991.

His military intervention Moscow has justified the official request from Damascus to assist this country in the fight against "terrorism", which decides on action away from the international coalition, which he sees as illegitimate and unable to do its job of destroying Daesha, since it has no coordination with "the legitimate Syrian government" on the ground.

Eventually change goals

In this context, the Kremlin said a number of reasons and motives that prompted them to intervene in Syria, the most important is to preserve the Syrian government institutions, to avoid a repetition of the scenario in Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia, where state collapse within these countries led to civil wars and turned them into hotbeds of terrorism or failed states, which pose a threat to their citizens and neighboring states.

Kremlin cites multiple reasons and motives that prompted them to intervene in Syria, but as time went on, the statements of Russian officials are beginning to discover other aspects of their mission, concerning the desire of Moscow to test and market its latest weapons.

During his address to the Russian public opinion, Moscow has focused on the fact that he wants to lead a preemptive war against "terrorism" in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the security services reiterated that about 2,000 Russians and 3,000 citizens of the former Soviet Union fighting in the ranks of ISIL. They presented them as a major threat to Russian national security and stability in Central Asia in the event that return from Syria and Iraq.

As time went by, the statements of Russian officials are beginning to discover the very important aspects of the objectives of Moscow's military intervention in Syria. Putin in the annual press conference on December 17, said that operations in Syria can be seen as a military exercise with little cost to the real war.

It was obvious that Russia wants to try its modern weaponry and present it to the public, and thus to send a message both within the country and outside its borders on the strength of the Russian army and fleet, despite the fact that the fight against the armed Syrian opposition, and even the ISIL -a, does not require this kind of weapons.

Russia was determined to examine its rocket arsenal and use the latest models of weapons. So in the Russian media leaked footage that documents the moment of firing cruise missiles from the Russian Caspian Sea, while also used Russian submarines to launch cruise missiles.

At the beginning of last month, Yuri Borisov, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense, said that the state "waiting in line to buy a Russian aircraft that has demonstrated its potential in Syria, such as SU-34 bombers." But it is interesting that the Russian Ministry of Defense has not yet revealed any confirmed contracts.

Without doubt, the Russian military intervention came after the Syrian opposition made great progress in the first half of last year, which led to the complete liberation of the province of Idlib control of the Syrian regime. It was the second liberated town after Raqqa, where the Syrian regime has lost all his positions. The release of Idlib came after dozens of opposition groups united their efforts in the fight against regime forces.

Perhaps the most important of all, the fact that taking control of the province of Idlib is a turning point, because in this way cuts strategically important time for Halep. Also, the armed opposition is thus an opportunity to open two significant fronts: to the south, and the province of Hama, which would enhance the siege of territories that are considered reserves of manpower for the Syrian regime in the Western Al-Gahaba while Idlib considered as a gateway for further progress to the west, in the direction of the northern villages of Latakia.

Such successes of the Syrian opposition in Idlib was followed by the great progress of the Free Syrian Army in the south, and were achieved significant progress in the province of Dara'a, while regime forces backed into a few enclaves in the city. By troops no longer have opportunities for advancement in Ghouti, despite the blockade, under which keeps this place for years.

Russian troubles in Syria

The Russian intervention in Syria is considered a progress unprecedented in the history of its relations with the Arab countries with a much grander scale across the boundaries of the former Soviet Union since the war with Afghanistan. Russia has already tested their strength in the conflict with Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014. However, the distance between action and the Russian military command centers and the challenge that operations provide logistical and information support are the difficulties faced by the Russian military intervention in Syria.

The question is: What is prompting Russia to this choice? Answer would be that, despite the fact that Russia wants to present its intervention to protect Syrian state institutions, a simple analysis of folders backers and political tactics reveals that it is intended to maintain in power the regime and its leadership, and put pressure on the Syrian opposition and the countries in the region that is support to accept a political solution in accordance with the vision and conditions of the Syrian regime, and to the imposition of the actual situation on the ground.

Otherwise it moves on to plan B, which provides for drawing the boundaries "useful Syria", instead of the whole of Syria, and the provision of guarantees for Russian interests with the current regime, which has been reflected at the naval base in the port of Tartus and agreements on oil and gas, signed in late 2013 ., with the aim of exploitation of huge oilfields in the sea in exchange for Syrian coast.

Russia undertakes a military experiment in Syria, through which have already passed the United States and its allies in Europe, where it is a bombardment from the air and shelling along the reliance on ground troops. However, Moscow's troubles is that it relies on the Syrian Army and other Shiite forces are exhausted and many years of heavy warfare.

As the intervention progressed, proved to be the Russian desire to establish a new military base in Syria, after the resumption of traffic at airports Humaimam, near the town of Jableh, and Al-Sha'irat, east of Homs.

Russia undertakes a military experiment in Syria, through which have already passed the United States and its allies in Europe, where it is a bombardment from the air and shelling along the reliance on ground troops. However, Moscow's troubles is that it relies on the Syrian army, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iraq-Afghan Shia militia - forces that have exhausted many years and heavy warfare.

On the other hand, Moscow is to shrink from the ground intervention on a larger scale, since this would imply a significant involvement in the conflict which does not know the outcome. Maybe drowning in a swamp, which could easily slip, which Moscow still feared, in order not to repeat the Afghan scenario. Such intervention would require additional material and human resources.

It is clear that Moscow will not go any further than sending military advisers without being sucked into a ground war, but at the same time, continue with equal intensity air strikes to force the Syrian opposition and the international and regional powers to accept Russia's vision of the solution of the Syrian crisis, as to has not been achieved and it will be difficult to achieve given the current conditions on the ground.

Repeat the Chechen experience in Syria

After about 100 days of intensive air raids, the Syrian regime and the federal forces fail to achieve any significant progress on the ground, for example, in strategic terms. On the contrary, the Syrian regime and its allies withdraw from many positions in favor of the armed opposition.

The Syrian regime, along with its allies, almost can barely keep control of an area no larger than 30,000 square kilometers, or 16 percent of the total Syrian territory. Russian task is aggravated by the fact that Syrian opposition began to use new tactics that breaks the violence of the Russian attack.

As time goes on, Russia is no longer able to represent their military intervention in Syria as fighting terrorism groups ISIL and reach a political settlement to the Syrian crisis. Russia applies a very complex tactics, which, on the one hand, the combination of air strikes, in whose targets are opponents of Bashar al-Assad, on the other hand, support for Assad's forces and his allies by delivering weapons and air support, in order to change reality on the field.

All reports agree that only 15 percent of Russia's attack was aimed at a group ISIL positions, while other attacks carried out in the positions of the armed Syrian opposition.

After the murder of the commander of the "Army of Islam" Zahran Aloush, more and more evidence that the imposition of a political settlement in accordance with the Russian vision is at the very top of the motives that led to the Russian military intervention in Syria, placing the world before a difficult choice between Assad and ISIL -And.

This confirms the statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei Lavrov in the final days of last year, when he stressed that his country is one of "Army of Islam" and Ahrar al-Sham in a terrorist organization, despite the fact that these two organizations with 15 other armed organizations in the last conference in Riyadh have adopted the principle of peace negotiations to seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

It is obvious that Moscow Chechen experience repeated in Syria. The attack on Aloush largely resembles the liquidation of Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen leader who was negotiating with Russia, and it was achieved before a political solution. After his murder, the growing popularity of Shamil Basayev and a group of fighters who believed that the only way to force the opposition to Moscow. Such events allow the Kremlin to Chechnya continue with the policy of "scorched earth", while the same kind of policies currently applied in the northwest of Syria and Ghouti in Damascus.

Mizerna achievements in the field

We have to notice the Russian diplomatic tact run tactics that will serve its goals using the extraordinary circumstances. Moscow has used the terrorist attacks in Paris in the best way, as well as a European panic because of the increasing number of Syrian refugees, and managed to get out of isolation and affect many Western states to change their attitudes and combat ISIL begin to take priority. In this way delays decision on Assad's departure from power until the end the question ISIL and al-Nusra Front.

The Kremlin has managed to distract Europe with questions of the Ukrainian crisis and the annexation of the Crimea and obscure - slogans on the return of the glory of the Soviet Union and the combat of imperial Russia - the consequences of one of the most serious economic crisis that Russia experienced in modern history.

On the other hand, Russia, even after 100 days of intervention in Syria, has failed to make progress on the ground, which would pave the way for the imposition of a political settlement in accordance with its vision and the Syrian regime. The Kremlin has failed to convince the world that his aim is to preserve the Syrian state institutions rather than providing protection for the Syrian regime and Assad, which means that Moscow wasted possibility of playing any intermediary role between the regime and the opposition, which has issued its decision on Russia and aligned in the same basket with Assad and Iran.

Disappointing results on the ground will force decision-making centers in Moscow - sooner or later - to devise an alternative strategy, which will involve making concessions in terms of Assad's fate, and perhaps establishing alliances with the United States and countries in the region in the fight against terrorism.

At the beginning of the Russian intervention many foreign feeling of relief, since Russia considered the lesser evil of Iran and its militia. The intervention of a superpower would mean reducing the role of Iran and its sectarian dimensions in Syria and the region. Although there is a significant difference between the two sides, Russia has complex calculations, which could fail if the intervention persists. The withdrawal of Iran, due to the growing number of deaths in the ranks of the Iranian army, will cause a big problem for Russia in the field and weaken the effectiveness of its air strikes, while, on the other hand, Moscow with Tehran competing for dominance in Syria.

Perhaps in the long run the most complex thing in all of this will be the way that will connect the Russian-Israeli coordination and the Russian Federation with the pact resistance.

It is understood that Russia can not act without coordination with regional actors, so turning down a Russian plane near the Turkish border has inflicted a heavy blow to Moscow and raised the cost of its operations in Syria and warned the formation of a regional alliance to oppose the Russian plans. Alliance of this kind could open the option of supplying the Syrian opposition anti-aircraft guns, which means more human, material and financial losses and retraction of Russia in the swamp on which warned its western partners since the intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Entrainment in the swamp

Although Russian intervention imposed political path laid out in resolution 2254, which is based on vague references between Geneva 1, which Russia does not really prefers, and agreement from Vienna, disappointing results on the ground will force decision-making centers in Moscow - sooner or later - to devise an alternative strategy, which will involve making concessions in terms of Assad's fate, and perhaps establishing alliances with the United States and countries in the region in the fight against terrorism.

Otherwise, Russia will continue its military intervention without a time limit, which will be more deeply drawn into the swamp, where can lose everything that has so far achieved.

That would put it before the demands of whom managed to escape temporarily, such as the crisis in Ukraine, the economic crisis due to falling energy prices and the absence of political and economic structural reforms, which could lead to a direct confrontation with the Muslim world.