Russia Lets ISIS into S. Syria to Bring Assad into Line in Geneva

Russian President Vladimir Putin is so frustrated with Bashar Assad that this week, he opened the South Syrian door a crack for the Islamic State to move in and hound the Syrian army.
This is disclosed by DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources and high-ranking officials in Moscow.
Not only Putin, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, are fed to the teeth with Assad’s endless machinations for obstructing any political solution to end the Syrian war.
At the UN-brokered Geneva conference this week, Syria’s UN envoy Bashar al-Ja’afari presented opposition delegates with a list of 50 stiff demands, each slyly composed in terms that would put his rivals in the wrong and accused of sabotaging the peace process if they held out.
The Russians tried explaining that the Geneva conference’s terms of reference did not include determining whether or not the president staid in power, but how to end the war by bringing the regime and the opposition together on a new ruling system.
Assad regime officials shrugged this explanation aside.
Al-Jaafari commented Thursday, March 24, that presuming the regime could be pressured by its Russian ally was a "misreading" of the situation.
"When we say that the dialogue must be between Syrians, without outside intervention, this also applies to the Russians and Americans," he said.
Judging from the 50 demands, Assad and his elite are not amenable to any fundamental changes in Damascus beyond a reshuffle of Syrian Prime Minister Wa’el al-Halaqi’s government. As for opposition participation in a future general election, the dictator is unwilling to countenance more than a few seats in parliament for rival parties.
Assad appeared to be banking on his ability to manipulate the “Russian ally" to his advantage. However, Putin, unwilling to let the Syrian ruler’s intransigence upset his deal with Barack Obama on a way forward at the Geneva conference, decided to teach Assad a lesson.
On Sunday, March 20, Russian bombers stayed on the ground, when the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade affiliated to the Islamic State started advancing into South Syria toward Daraa, Nawa and Sheikh Maskin, the towns held by the Syrian army and Hizballah forces.
Previously, when the jihadist brigade poked its head out of a small enclave near where Israeli and Jordanian borders converge (see map), it was clobbered by Russian air strikes and pulled back.
But that was in the early days of the five-month Russian intervention when Moscow and the Assad regime were in close rapport.
Intelligence surveillance shows the Islamist Brigade are already pounding Syrian and Hizballah positions with tank fire and heavy artillery. Senior commanders are being rushed south from the ISIS command center in Raqqa to pull off a quick victory and takeover of southern Syria.
But this time, not a single Russian plane took off to stop the jihadists’ advance.
Putin was not especially bothered by the by-product of his stratagem, namely Islamic State forces’ advance up to the Jordanian and Israeli borders.
By this device, Moscow was warning Assad what was in store if he persisted in refusing to toe the line: Putin would leave him exposed to certain setbacks and defeats – not just by ISIS, but at the hands of a host of rebel forces just waiting for their chance.
By the same token, reports of Russian-backed Syrian military advances this week on the ISIS-held world heritage town of Palmyra are proving to be unfounded. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources say there is no advance and no supportive Russian air strikes against the enemy on this front too.

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