Putin Is Not after a Syrian Victory, but Local Truces Ready for His New Order
President Vladimir Putin’s war plan for Syria under his secret pact with President Barack Obama is not designed as a march to victory. It is intended to force the Syrian rebels to stop fighting, end their threat to the regime of Bashar Assad, and submit to negotiations around a table on a future settlement.
The shape of that settlement has been set out in the Putin master plan.
Moscow took a major stride towards this objective last week when combined Russian air force, artillery and Chechen Special Operations units conducted an operation for laying siege to rebel strongholds in Aleppo, the main city of northern Syria. This action cleared the path for Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah forces to advance to a line 10 to 12 km short of the Turkish border.
More than 40,000 rebels, belonging to some 250 quarreling militias, remain stranded in northern Syria with little option but to accept cease-fire agreements, similar to the truces already in effect in parts of Damascus and around the central Syrian towns of Homs and Hama.
Wednesday morning, Feb. 10, Aleppo had its water and electricity cut off after a night of Russian air strikes that hit the city’s infrastructure.
While still pounding rebel strongholds in the north and winding up operations in central regions, the Russians this week hurled their might against rebel groups fighting in the south.
The up-in-the-air Syrian war situation is meanwhile producing strange anomalies.
In the north, this week, the rebel Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, tried to rush reinforcements to the beleaguered rebel militias in Aleppo from two other arenas: the Ad-Deb valley in the Lebanese border region of Arsal, and the still surviving rebel pockets around Hama and Homs.
Those reinforcements were attacked en route to Aleppo by… ISIS.
The Islamic State had improbably pitched in with the Russian-led Syrian army and allied move on Aleppo, thereby saving the combined force from having to detach troops from the main battle in order to prevent reinforcements reaching the rebels in the beleaguered city.
The lull in US and Russian air strikes in the last few days left ISIS free to inflict a side- blow on its bitter rival, the fellow-jihadist Nusra Front. Its tacticians are closely watching the various warfronts and figuring out where they can step in for tactical gains.