SU-35 Russian warplane for ground targets deployed this week in Syria
Russia is determined to bomb Syrian rebels into submission by a massive aerial campaign, comparable to the American 2003 “shock and awe” offensive over Baghdad. Only this time, it is Russia which is invading Syria. Tuesday, Feb. 2, saw a wave of air strikes, for which heavy Tupolev Tu-22M strategic bombers flew in from their base in Russia. President Vladimir is not deterred by the hundreds of civilian casualties caused in these raids, or the cries rising from the Syrian town of Aleppo which was targeted Monday.
debkafile’s military sources report that the Russian air strikes are of equal intensity in northern and southern Syria. Tuesday, Feb. 3, 300 sorties were conducted against rebel forces holding the small southern town of Nawa, just 10 km from Israel’s Golan border. They were clearly audible to the members of Israel’s security cabinet, led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, when they toured the northern border that day.
This may have been meant to demonstrate to all parties concerned Moscow ruthless determination to smash the Syrian rebellion and close all its options except for two: 1) Continue to take brutal punishment from hundreds of bombing raids per day; or 2) Play ball with the political solution Moscow has presented to the Geneva conference for resolving the Syrian conflict.
The concession to Saudi Arabia and the UAE offered by Russia for letting the rebel groups they support come to Geneva was that Putin planned the political process he projected to culminate in Bashar Assad’s departure.
Lacking a specific timeline for this event, Moscow added another incentive: the removal not only of Bashar Assad from power, but also making a clean sweep of his clan members from their positions of control over the Syrian military and intelligence services.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on a visit to Abu Dhabi Tuesday, stressed that the Gulf rulers had every reason to go along with Moscow’s plan for Syria, since Assad’s ouster is built in as its end-product, an elusive goal for which they laid out billions of dollars in support for rebel groups..
The heavy bombing campaign was not Putin’s only tool of leverage. debkafile’s sources in Washington and Moscow report that US President Barack Obama is behind the military and political game plan which Moscow is selling to the region.
The two powers are therefore engaged in a joint initiative for bringing the horrendous five-year Syrian war to an end, their first such partnership for a Middle East conflict. They have agreed to assign the Russian military the lead role for imposing a political solution on the various parties. Because their alliance is powerful enough to crush any resistance in its path, neither Washington nor Moscow is overly concerned by the threat by rebel delegations in Geneva to walk out unless Russian air strikes are halted.
For them, Geneva is a sideshow. The political process for ending the war is rooted in the deal between the United States and Russia. Even if some delegations do walk out of the conference, their forces will continue to face savage Russian air strikes, until they are cowed into downing arms on terms dictated by the Kremlin with Obama’s support.