Why Deir Ezzor and why now? – TTG


When Russia’s call for de-escalation zones first came out, my first thought, like many, was that Putin was throwing in the towel. Then I thought of several other possibilities.

1. It appeared to be a continuation of Russia’s attempt to separate the irreconcilable jihadists from the Syrian opposition. I doubt much of this opposition remains, but there must be some given that some are still coming over to the government side now and then. They are certainly not militarily significant. In any case, RT said this moderate opposition would then be directed against the jihadists “with the support of the guarantor countries.”

2. Russia’s plan for de-escalation zones was an aggressive forecheck of the longstanding US-Saudi plan for safe areas. Pulling Turkey into this alternate plan by making it one of the guarantor countries would greatly weaken the US-Saudi plan and stall its implementation.  

3. The plan’s aim could be part of the larger effort to neutralize Turkish support of the jihadists and pull Turkey further into the Russian sphere.    

4. As long as Russia is unwilling to deploy significant ground forces to decisively finish the job militarily, this de-escalation zone plan seemed to be the next best move. If Russia and Syria manage to call the shots by including Turkey as a guarantor country, this could go a long way in isolating the jihadists and focusing the fight against them. 

In the last few days it has become clear that the de-escalation zone plan is the first stage of a major strategic shift in the conduct of the war in Syria. This is an economy of force move in the western part of Syria executed to concentrate R+6 forces for a push to the west as explicitly stated by Russian General Rudskoy a few days ago. 


“After the signing of the memorandum on the creation of zones of de-escalation in Syria, the main efforts of the Russian Air Force will be directed to the development of an offensive to the east of Palmyra and the subsequent release of Deir ez-Zor, said Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the RF Armed Forces General Staff.

"The establishment of zones of de-escalation will allow government troops to liberate a significant number of troops." The Russian Air Force will continue to support the Syrian armed forces to destroy the bandit formations of the international terrorist organization DAISH (the Arab name of the terrorist organization IGIL, banned in Russia), "Rudskoy said.

Another task of the VKS, according to Rudskoy, will be the liberation of the northeastern territories in the province of Aleppo along the Euphrates River.”  (РОССИЙСКАЯ ГАЗЕТА)


Al Masdar News reported that Russian support will also include ground forces.  “According to the military source, the Russian special forces will be embedded with the Syrian Arab Army’s 5th Legion and Tiger Forces for the entire duration of the offensive.” We don’t know if this will entail embedded advisors or Spetsnaz units performing their traditional reconnaissance-sabotage roles for the larger SAA formations. Perhaps it will be both.

Other Russian support consists of a “new counter-partisan special detachment from the countries of the former USSR” called TURAN. According to “Русская весна,” a detachment of up to 400 men of this 800 to 1200 strong TURAN unit are prepared to immediately support an SAA offensive from rural Aleppo towards Deir Ezzor.

The SAA forces massing for this offensive include the Tiger Forces and the 5th Corps. I’m sure there are others. Hezbollah forces are also returning to the Palmyra front. Al Masdar News says that “Suheil Al-Hassan, commander-in-chief of the Tiger Forces, will reportedly command two simultaneous offensive in eastern Aleppo and eastern Palmyra against the Islamic State.” The idea of two main thrusts caused me a little concern before I saw this more as an envelopment to either cut off the IS jihadists in the vast open area east of Homs or force them to withdraw towards the Euphrates. Efforts within the Deir Ezzor pocket to expand the area under government control are intensifying with some success. The SAA, surely with Russian air support, are preparing a force of several hundred seasoned Republican Guards to reinforce the pocket by airmobile insertion. This is a bold plan, but in my opinion a plan with a good chance of working.

The operation to liberate Deir Ezzor will be named Operation Lavender. Why? An observer named Wael Al Hussaini explained on twitter. "Back in 2012 when Deir Ezzor was about to fall a famous Republican Guards commander "Ali Khuzam" was among the first to arrive to defend the city along with General Issam Zahreddine. Unfortunately, General Ali unfortunately was killed defending the city. The general's last name in Arabic is خزام which means Lavender, so this operation will be a tribute to him and to the other heroes who fell there defending Syria."

The objective of this offensive goes beyond the relief of Deir Ezzor.  It is a drive to the Iraqi border. The R+6 obviously sees the coalition effort to take the east of the country from both Rojava and Jordan as a greater threat than the jihadis in Idlib. I don't know what Putin has working with Turkey, but I guess he thinks he can handle the sultan. I also think Putin and Assad are confident they can eventually work something out with the Rojava Kurds. But the US-Saudi (and Israeli) plan for safe areas and cutting the Shia crescent, as Elijah Magnier writes, is something that must be addressed now. Iraq sees this as well. The Iraqi Army and the PMU just launched an offensive to take the countryside west of Haditha. This is part of an Iraqi effort to eventually take the border crossing at Al-Qa’im.

In retrospect, I think the decision not to continue an offensive towards Idlib after the liberation of Aleppo and to advance east to cut off the Turks and their jihadis at al-Bab was a result of this view that foreign incursions into Syrian territory are viewed as a greater immediate threat to Assad and Putin that the Idlib jihadis.


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54 Responses to Why Deir Ezzor and why now? – TTG

  1. Annem says:

    At least in terms of protecting the Kurds from further Turkish assaults, Russia is helping the US protect the Rojava folks, by their presence in the Western Kurdish areas. The impetuous sultan goofed this time.
    Is there any info on the strength of the forces the US is putting forward out of Jordan towards Deir ez Zor? Would they dare tackle the R+6 when they get close to that target or back off?

  2. Annem,
    I’ve seen numbers like 2,000 or so rebel fighters. A small group of under 100, Magwahir Al-Thawra, was the former New Syrian Army which got its ass handed to it by IS shortly after it was armed by the US. That small group is now the funnel to arm the other groups in the area. The main opposition forces are the Ahmad Abdo Forces, Jaysh Osoud Al-Sharkiyah and Jaysh Ahrar Al-Ashaer. I don’t think they’ed do very well against the SAA and Russian/Syrian air support. It’s all a matter of getting there first.

  3. Thanks, Colonel Lang, for the heads up on the needed edits. I think I got them now.

  4. Matthew says:

    TTG: Thanks for the fascinating analysis.

  5. Anonymous says:

    With palm of hand face down level with ground (north/south)you slowly make a fist.and squeeqe till the juice comes running out the sides(east /west).called the grip of tyre fitters hand.movements east and west are a result of north to south pressure.

  6. Jony Kanuck says:

    According to Al Masar of a couple days ago: The Syrians overflew a drone & saw 200 vehicles parked just over the border. Apparently that has Damascus excited. I looked at the photos but couldn’t tell much…

  7. kooshy says:

    TTG a very well done comprehensive, reasoned analysis, thank you

  8. Jony Kanuck,
    Those vehicles belong to US, French and Jordanian forces in the ares for a joint exercise. Having those forces there obviously is a cause for concern. An exercise would be a convenient cover for an invasion, but it does not mean that an invasion is imminent.

  9. BraveNewWorld says:

    I also suspect this will open the door for Egypt and possibly others to send more man power to keep an eye on the safe zones so that Syrians can be redeployed to do the heavy fighting.

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Egypt? They cannot even maintain law and order in Sinai.

  11. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Are the Gulfies paying for any future invasion?
    Is US being rented by the Gulfies?
    Just like Egypt and Jordan are rented by US?

  12. Castellio says:

    On this we agree. They will, however, hold Cairo.

  13. charly says:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/06/syria-kurds-raqqa-mediterranen after Raqqa the Kurds will conquer Idlib because now we notice that it is occupied by Alqaeda.

  14. FB Ali says:

    Thank you for these detailed postings on the situation in Syria.
    I find them very illuminating.

  15. plantman says:

    This is brilliant analysis. Really brilliant.
    You say: “In the last few days it has become clear that the de-escalation zone plan is the first stage of a major strategic shift in the conduct of the war in Syria…”
    Yes, and the arab media has created a plausible excuse for the shift, that is, the possibility of an invasion from the Jordan-Syria border.
    Does Putin really think there will be an invasion?
    Probably not, but it justifies the shifting of troops to the east.
    It looks to me like the R+6 is going to let the SDF capture Raqqa while the SAA tightens their grip on Deir Ezzor.
    Deir Ezzor is the key. It makes it impossible for the SDF to establish a no-fly zone over all the territory east of the Euphrates.
    I think that might be the gameplan. Turn the Euphrates into a modernday Berlin Wall and launch attacks on the Assad regime from a US-protected safe zone.

  16. b says:

    @TTG – no the tanks seen in those drone pictures (first published in Al-Akhbar) are old M-60s and alike. It is a depot/junk yard of the Jordan army and most of the equipment there has been standing at the same place since 2010. Its some 45km from the Syrian border. If serviceable (dubious) it is enough stuff to equip a full armored brigade.

  17. b,
    Thanks for the clarification. I just assumed Jony Kanuck was referring to the buildup of forces for the EAGER LION annual training exercise going on in Jordan now.

  18. Peter in Toronto says:

    Hmm, the Russians appear to want to settle this thing on the cheap. It has a very strong chance of backfiring given the strangely fortuitous timing of offensive operations between the Idlib Jihadists and their ideological cousins just west of Aleppo in the past.
    The narrow Khanasser route linking Aleppo to the rest of Syria is going to be pressed by IS, and it is staffed by flaky NDF militias. Fire force units of the SAA will have to be diverted once again, when the route gets cut.
    The Jordanians are conspiring with the southern “rebels” and US advisers to concentrate a force of unknown size and intentions.
    IMO, this will not be settled without a significant Russian ground force.

  19. Peter AU says:

    This seems the location. Matches the pics and location in the almasdarnews article b has linked to.

  20. Barbara Ann says:

    Great analysis, but I have a question re “and Putin” in the final sentence.
    Russia entered the Syrian war only at the last minute to safeguard it’s vital security interests there. The DEZ plan seems to be a low risk strategy to further that aim (given proximity of the zones to it’s bases) and to achieve the goals described. What I am not seeing is the logical leap to Russia calculating that it’s vital security interests now justify further commitment with ground forces to territory far the the East. Assad & maybe Iran, sure, but I cannot see the reward that justifies the increased risk of it’s enemies engineering another Afghanistan for Russia? Alternatively, if Syria *as a whole* has always been judged vital to Russian interests, why did it not intervene much earlier?
    All insights most welcome, many thanks.

  21. Barbara Ann says:

    Right on cue; Patrick Armstrong on the perils of underestimating Russia:

  22. Peter Reichard says:

    The SAA victory at Aleppo ought to have been followed up by an aggressive pursuit of demoralized rebels into Idlib but that victory and the imminent collapse of ISIS altered the thinking of the outside powers arrayed against Assad. Accepting his survival for now they seek to hand over the eastern half of Syria to Western proxies after the ISIS defeat. The cease fire in the west lets the SAA effectively deal with this new and more immediate strategic threat to the integrity of their country. Idlib has to wait for now but the cease fire will not last and Al Qaida’s day of reckoning will come.

  23. Barbara Ann,
    If anything, I should have added Khamenei’s name to the list. The US-Saudi plan for a safe area is a plan to break the Shia crescent and to provide a base for further Wahabbi adventurism. This directly threatens Russia’s southern flank. The US-Saudi plan threatens Iran even more directly. I’m sure Russia and Iran would prefer a tier of friendly or at least neutral countries in this region. A warm water port in a rump Syria would be a small consolation if Syria was partitioned in this way.
    Russia’s reticence to commit forces to this war remains intact even today. Both Colonel Lang and I have lamented the resultant shortage in forces to crush the jihadis once and for all. I don’t think Russia has the same appetite for military adventurism that the Borg seems to relish.

  24. NB Peterson says:

    Here’s a take on the situation…the unrest in the area is a continuation of the Sunni-Shia conflict ongoing since 634AD. IMO, we (Russia, US) need to step back from this tar-baby and let them fight it out. Shut down any and all oil sales from the ME…let’s see them finance their sectarian war without oil revenues. Barring that, we ought to leave Syria to Russia (they’ve been their client for an eternity), and concentrate on Iraq. We broke it, we fix it…but be prepared for a lengthy occupation. (Imagine that we left Germany after a year or two after the end of WW2…imagine the outcome) Neither side complains about how the other is handling the action (poison gas etc)..the rest of the world will scream loud enough. Plenty of opportunity for cross-border cooperative ops. The US-Russian relationship does NOT have to be an adversarial one.

  25. NB Peterson,
    I disagree. It’s more a matter of Wahhabi jihadists against all. I think we should largely pull out of the region militarily including Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf. We should stop our foolish policy of trying to destroy Iran and seek amicable,or at least neutral, relationships with all. The one exception is that we should tell the Saudis to pound sand up their asses. Their support of jihadists is a festering sore on the face of the Earth.

  26. Barbara Ann says:

    Thanks for the reply TTG & thanks again for the excellent report.

  27. Bill Herschel says:

    I agree with you. And I believe that if Russia has decided Syria will not be partitioned, it will not be partitioned.
    The U.S. has had an abundance of opportunity to confront Russia directly over Syria. It has not and will not. I return to the Korean war. It was non-nuclear. These things can be arranged. But it was not a victory for the U.S. and cost over 36,000 killed. It will not happen again.
    This is one of the reasons if not the reason the propaganda war is so intense. It is the only show in town for the U.S.

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Party of Ali vs Sunnis is not new; what is new is that a new life that has been breathed into it across Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE.
    Last year, in 2016, Sunni Muslim Thugs cut the throat of an 8-year old girl in Zabul, set fire to a Quran-reciting 12-year old girl in Kabul and stoned to death another girl in the Northeast of Afghanistan.
    The girls were not Shia Muslims – to my knowledge.
    And then there are the Shia Hazara of Afghanistan; every day across Afghanistan, a Hazara man is murdered or one of their women folk is raped.
    These crimes are not committed by Jews, or Christians, or Hindus, or Atheists, or Sikhs – they are committed by the Sunni Believers.
    Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that Sunni Islam and the Shia Islam are separate religions.
    Fortress West has elected to be against the Party of Ali – the Shia.

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree.
    I also think Saudi Arabia and Pakistan bear the ultimate and major responsibility for the continuing war in Afghanistan.

  30. Thomas says:

    “We don’t know if this will entail embedded advisors or Spetsnaz units performing their traditional reconnaissance-sabotage roles for the larger SAA formations. Perhaps it will be both.”
    On the morning news crawl was a report of twenty insurgents killed when an ISIS arms depot blew up. Those boys are quickly getting down to business.
    “Russia’s reticence to commit forces to this war remains intact even today. Both Colonel Lang and I have lamented the resultant shortage in forces to crush the jihadis once and for all. I don’t think Russia has the same appetite for military adventurism that the Borg seems to relish.”
    First the Borg Brats are all for war as long as their precious azzes aren’t on the line or held accountable for their effed up recommendations to the civil government.
    Second the Deir Ezzor offensive can be the proverbial two birds with one stone solution by relieving the siege and reopening land communications with Iraq. This would be followed by a request by the Syrian Government to Iraqi Government for military forces to assist in the Jihadi Cleansing Campaign in Idlib province overcoming the manpower issue.
    The SDF is reported to have taken Tabqa and the Dam today with reports that the Mosul campaign is in its final stages.
    Perhaps the Donald was conspiring with the Russians on how to remove this human blight from the face of the earth and Comey is a domestic maskirovka distraction for the jihadis secret supporters among the Borganism?

  31. hemeantwell says:

    ““new counter-partisan special detachment from the countries of the former USSR””
    Can anyone talk say more about this? Aside from their immediate usefulness in Syria, seems like the Russians are offering the military of ex-USSR countries combat opportunities under Russian auspices. Do the Russians have something like a School of the Americas?

  32. turcopolier says:

    Do you actually know anything about “the School of the Americas?” i lived a half mile away from it At Ft. Gulick in the CZ in 1964-65. It was a facility to train Latin American military under the Rio Treaty. pl

  33. FkDahl says:

    Hear hear! But the odds of it happening are low because of the corrupting power of the Saudi oil money. By the time oil runs out they will have demographically important allies in Europe that can twist the continent into being the next lily pad for Wahabi civilization.

  34. Gene O. says:

    TTG –
    I believe you are right that the relief of Deir ez-Zor will be the start of a drive to the Iraqi border.
    I suspect they probably also want to do an early cut off of Daish fleeing to Deir ez-Zor because of the Iraqi drive on the Anah-Rawa-Qaim axis. And then later they could catch any remaining Daish in a vise at the border, with the Iraqis being the other jaw.
    PS – Glad to hear that the Russians ban the use of the terms ISIS or ISIL, and call them what they are, the ‘international terrorist organization Daish’. We should do the same. To call them a state is to give them an undeserved prestige.

  35. charly says:

    A big reason (at least public) why Russia entered Syria was DOING THE RIGHT THING as in stopping it becoming a Jihadi hell hole. That is why they do it on the cheap. It is not for bases or vital Russian interest. It is for making the World a better place.

  36. charly says:

    Russia & Iran can’t afford to pay for Syria after the war so they need an end to the Western embargo on Syria(EU part, US will continue and is not important) and that only will happen if Syria is fighting Al Qaida and i don’t mean in a factual way, they obvious are, but what the newspapers say.

  37. hemeantwell,
    This TURAN outfit is supposed to be a Russian private military company (PMC). The idea stems from the Islamic battalions employed by the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. I believe there are Chechen units doing the same thing in Syria.

  38. robt willmann says:

    This is good news. I have been babbling for a long time about focusing on the area made by drawing a line from Palmyra (Tadmur) angling up to Deir ez Zor (Dayr az Zawr), and then east to the Iraq border, then running along the Iraq/Syria border to the Euphrates River and then back up to Palmyra. It would be best to go along the Syria and Iraq border past the Euphrates River a ways essentially to the Jordanian border, and then up to Palmyra. Either way, this will give Syria control of the important oil and gas fields and pipelines in that area, as well as control of the Euphrates River all the way to the Iraq border.
    It has seemed to me that the situation with the Kurds to the north and northeast of Palmyra is a more complicated matter with more players involved and will take more work to try to sort out. But the big area enclosing the oil and gas pipelines and fields and the river would seem to be a straight-forward fight, and when it is cleared, Syria will also have control of its border from due east of Deir ez Zor all the way down and around to the border with Jordan.

  39. kooshy says:

    I don’t know if related but in persian Turan is the land northeast of Iran in central asia where central asian turk tribes known as Tur live. Turan is also name of a female. According to epic book of Shahnameh, Iranians always had two major enemies Tur= North east tribes and Tazi = Arabs of south

  40. kooshy says:

    I fully agree, I pray this become a policy of US, but unfortunately I don’t see it happening.

  41. LeaNder says:

    Charly, the earliest reference to post rebuilding and post war support I recall on SST was by Harper. Supposedly China is interested to help. More recently it feels, matters surfaced again. …
    But interesting you refer to sanctions, or embargo. Sanctions no doubt must be deeply connected to the Assad must go narrative.
    Just noticed, there is a Sanctions Wiki now:

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Azeris in the Azerbaijan Republic pirated the name Turan of Shahnameh for themselves in order to create a non-existent pedigree for themselves.
    Over the years, I have noticed how much communities and nations without historical ancient pedigrees pine for one; look at the Northern Europeans who are trying to raise that rag called Celtic Culture since they cannot lay a claim to either Rome or Christianity.
    Or how Russia styles herself as the Third Rome.
    Why do you think Arabs dislike Iran?

  43. Yonatan says:

    Protecting the Kurds? They are ‘good cop’ to the ISIS ‘bad cop’. The US will supply them with weapons as long as they fulfil US aims, ie destruction of Syria. Russia has stated that the territoral integrity of SYria is sacrosanct and its fate is soley for the the people of Syria to decide on. There is a conflict right there. The US is in Syria as an illegal invader. Russia is there by invitation of the legitimate Syrian givernment. The US is leaving Turkey with no option but to protect its national security interest threatened by Kurdish (PKK) terrorism. The Kurds will be surrounded by implacable enemies with no means of land or air access once the US inevitably leaves. The Kurds’ long-term interests, rather than the short-term US interests, would be better served by going for a peaceful political solution with the Syrian and other governments (Russia would be pleased to mediate). But the Kurds have been suckered by the US before and seem oblivious to the possibility repeating itself.

  44. Yonatan says:

    The de-escalation zones do serve to demarcate those amenable to peaceful outcomes versus the implacable takfiris; they provide civilians with some releif from the dailiy horrors, putting further pressure on the fighters; they reinforce the Russian drive for a peaceful solution; they liberate more SAA troops for use elsewhere; and (almost) totally defuse the potential for more ‘Syria dropping chemical weapons’ false flags event that would be used as an excuse for US to send more troops in from Jordan.

  45. turcopolier says:

    IMO you are kidding yourself. The Turks will continue supplying and building up their AQ jihadi allies in Idlib and in their enclave in eastern Aleppo and will attack out of these lodgements. pl

  46. plantman says:

    Thanks again for an excellent post.
    I read recently that neither Dunford nor Mattis want to get more deeply involved in Syria.
    Mcmaster, however, seems to like the idea.
    But McMaster appears to be out of favor with Trump, so maybe there won’t be an escalation(??)
    Is there a strategy the US could implement that might deter the SAA from seizing Deir Ezzor and moving on to the Iraqi border?
    I’m just curious about what options the US has now that war for the east has begun??
    Is there a blocking strategy we can expect to see?

  47. Chris Chuba says:

    This is a sound military plan but I really wish they had concentrated their forces to capture Khan Shaykhun first and then dragged the OPCW their kicking and screaming to investigate.
    The U.S. public will never like Assad and Russia but the alleged WMD attack and our response put them into a deeper category of evil. In the future, we could take virtually any action against them and the U.S. public will be supportive of it in principle. At the very least it sets up a Ronald Reagan type of Cold War.
    I can just hear the rhetoric now, ‘just as Reagan broke the back of the evil empire by making them overspend on defense, we will build up our nuclear arsenal and challenge the Russians and their ally, the number one sponsor of terrorism wherever they seek to expand. We will not tolerate their bad behavior, support for terrorism including chemical attacks on innocent civilians’
    I get that you have to take care of the facts on the ground but the Russians have to pay attention to deflating this reservoir of hatred at least a little bit. It wouldn’t hurt the Iranians to look into hiring whatever PR consultants the Saudis use. The U.S. is the most powerful country on earth. Having the citizens of the most powerful country on earth believe that you are as bad as the Nazi’s is a really bad disadvantage. The Neocons have chosen their ground well.
    I can’t believe that Lavrov is all smiles because of some ‘constructive’ talks about Syria after we basically accused them of colluding in a WMD attack. Even if the Russians get an agreement out of us, we have broken every previous arrangement in Syria and then blamed them for it.

  48. Anonymous says:

    The puff adder is known to bite backwards.the 13 the june 2017 will be the start of the back bite.

  49. charly says:

    China etc. can give money etc. but they can’t be a (big) market for Syria and Syria needs a big market to sell goods to after the war. They need that market to create the jobs for after the rebuilding

  50. charly says:

    What abundance? The US is already supporting the “rebels” on a massive scale and the only options the US didn’t do was a)manpads which aren’t effective weapons in Syria or b)direct intervention which opens such a big can of worms that WWIII isn’t even the worst possible result.

  51. Pundita says:

    TTG, thank you for this report.
    1. The Battle of Deir Ezzor city is about to commence:
    Exclusive: Reinforcements from Syrian Army start pouring to besieged Deir Ezzor city
    By Ivan Yakovlev – 12/05/2017
    DAMASCUS, SYRIA (7:40 P.M.) – On Friday afternoon, Syrian Arab Army (SAA) began deploying reinforcements to Deir Ezzor ahead of a major military operation in this embattled city.
    Exclusively speaking to Al-Masdar News, a military source said that more than 500 soldiers of Republican Guard and tribal paramilitary units are to be transported to Deir Ezzor as preparations for an offensive against the so-called “Islamic State” (IS, or also ISIL/ISIS) are underway.
    According to the source, reinforcements are being redeployed to Qamishli Airbase by IL-76 military cargo planes. Then, by means of Mi-8 helicopters, these troops will be transferred to Deir Ezzor city itself.
    The main purpose of the upcoming operation is to finally break siege of Deir Ezzor Airbase and secure southern outskirts of the city.
    2. From Question 7 in Assad’s interview with Belarus TV channel ONT, posted May 11 at SANA:
    President Assad: These [de-escalation] areas include a mixture of civilians and terrorists. The terrorists are a mixture of al-Nusra, ISIS, other organizations, and some gangs.
    The objective is in the first place to protect the civilians in these areas. The second objective is to give the interested rebels an opportunity to reconcile themselves with the state, like what happened in other areas. So, de-escalation in these areas is an opportunity for them to settle their status with the state, i.e. they lay down their weapons in return for amnesty.
    It is also an opportunity for other groups which want to expel the terrorists, particularly ISIS and al-Nusra, from these areas.
    So, [the areas] have a number of aspects, but the most important for us is to reduce bloodshed in those areas while waiting for internal political steps between us and the groups operating in those areas.
    If rebels are willing to fight AQ groups in these areas, their small numbers might not be a large factor if they are allowed to call in air strikes (with proper monitoring of course) on AQ and/or Islamic State positions. That would give the rebels the ability to punch above their weight class.
    3. China is definitely going to contribute more to the reconstruction of Syria but the question is how much. From this analysis for The Diplomat, the answer may be ‘not so much.’
    China’s interests in Syria do not necessarily translate into a major role in reconstruction after the Syrian Civil War. Although China harbors economic interests, especially in Syria’s natural resources, and has been coordinating well with the Syrian government, Russia, and Iran, it is still unlikely that China would play a major economic role in post-war Syria, given both China’s political concerns and its shrinking foreign currency reserves.
    As to the reconstruction plan floated by the EU in March it’s long on talk and
    short on actual construction offers. In any case Assad said last year that governments that worked against Syria, which includes some EU ones, will be barred from doing reconstruction projects in the country.
    As to India — they’re finishing a pre-war project that was interrupted by the war, a government scrap iron smelting plant in Hama. Such a plant is critical to large-scale construction projects.
    In addition, From a January 2017 report at Live Mint:
    […] Notably, India has already renewed its commitments to its pre-war projects, specifically the Tishreen power plant, which can be looked upon as India’s premier developmental undertaking in the country. India has told Syria in recent consultations that it is willing to restart work if the Syrian regime can provide security guarantees for its people and companies.
    A review of the security scenarios has also been initiated to outline whether work on the plant can begin anytime in the near future. The Indian stance perhaps signals that South Block expects President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power as the end-game of the crisis in Syria plays itself out.
    The contract for the Tishreen power plant, for which India had extended a line of credit to Syria for $100 million, was given to state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd in 2009. However, work was suspended once the conflict escalated.
    Other projects suffered a similar fate. For example, India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), along with the China National Petroleum Corp., had acquired a 37% stake in Syria’s Al Furat Petroleum Co. OVL had also won the bid for exploration of oil/natural gas at Block 24 in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province -— all investments had to be abandoned. […]
    India’s present problem in this regard is the same one faced by Russia and other countries that dare take positions frowned upon by the ‘international community’ — either play ball or face ostracism or worse. This theme is very clear in the Live Mint article, and it’s voiced in many other venues.
    Despite this, there is still a chance for India to make substantial contributions to rebuilding Syria.

  52. Chris Chuba says:

    Thanks for the reply. The Russians cannot totally ignore the propaganda war in Syria. It would be a waste of effort to try to get the U.S. public to like them, but it is dangerous to allow the Neocons to successfully put them into the war criminal / terrorist zone. If the U.S. public thinks the Russians are criminals and gangsters like they did in the 90’s, that’s bearable. They should shoot for that. Abducting an OPCW team and forcing them to examine Khan Shaykhun would be a nice roguish thing to do along those lines 🙂
    A military victory in Syria at the expense of allowing their image to deteriorate into NAZI land is a short term gain. A country of our size and wealth can make things very miserable for Russia. By Neocons, I mean the entire Foreign Policy Establishment that wants a unipolar world where the U.S. is judge, jury, and executioner. It’s larger than a pro-Israel policy. I’d say Borg but that term is not well known beyond this site, Neocon is also a nice and short term.
    I don’t mean to obsess over the information war. I just got a sense that Khan Shaykhun was a big event that will stick in the minds of the U.S. public more than anything else in Syria. Shrugging it off is not wise IMO but what do I know.

  53. LeaNder says:

    charly, maybe its not about money only but investments? Syria has oil and China surely needs it. “Cultural Marxist” argument?
    Look, admittedly to the extend I was initiated into economics I deeply disliked it. Admittedly on a rather narrow knowledge base. Or for that matter almost all of the standard equations I was fed, or the the basic formulas. …

  54. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg says:

    I imagine that sending in significant ground forces is a last resort for Russia.

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