Ivan Safronov, Sergey Goryashko, Maria Efimova in the article “Sometimes they fly“, published in the journal “Power“, report quite interesting details connected with the participation of Russian troops in the fighting in Syria, and options for further developments. Our blog gives the text of this material.
Combat helicopters Mi-24P helicopter of the Russian space forces at the airbase “Hamim”, March 2016 (C) twitter.com/BabakTaghvaee
The news of the withdrawal of troops was much less expected than on their input. Officially the air force of Russia operation started on 30 September 2015: a day before in the Kremlin received a letter from Bashar al-Assad, who asked to assist in the fight against terrorists “Islamic state” (IG, the organization banned in Russia), under control of which there were several dozen major cities. In fact, preparations for the Syrian operations were actively conducted in August–September. First large amphibious ships (in particular, “Novocherkassk“, “Queens“, “Saratov“, “Azov” and “Caesar Kunikov“) and freight ferries (“Alexander Tkachenko“) and then purchased on an emergency basis Turkish ferries, which received the status of Russian Navy ships, began to be transported from Novorossiysk to the Syrian port of Tartus ammunition, fuel and lubricants and machinery. The same parallel was engaged and the aircraft of the military transport aviation. Accumulated sufficient quantities of weapons the military had to rebase combat aircraft.Despite the measures for better security (all the movement of fighters, attack aircraft and bombers occurred on the background of the exercises “Center-2015”), the American satellite system was able to capture the growing military presence of Russia in Latakia, however, to prevent this. By 30 September at the airbase Hamim was formed a full mixed air group of more than 50 vehicles (the su-30SM, su-34 and su-24M, su-25, helicopters Mi-8 and Mi-24P helicopter and aircraft reconnaissance).Besides the pilots there were deployed servicemen of the 810th brigade of the black sea fleet (Sevastopol), the 7th air assault mountain division VDV (stanitsa Rayevskaya), as well as detachments of special operations forces. The first two were to ensure the safety of Tartous and Mamimi and the others if necessary to conduct commando and rescue operations. The airbase is covered by air defense system “Buk-M2” and “Pantsir-s” and modernized the Syrian complexes (repair them in advance also was held by the specialists from Russia).On the same day, 30 September, the Russian pilots struck the first blows on the positions of terrorists.
With great efforts of the Syrian officers managed to collect 4-second assault case, which began on October 8 to lead the offensive in the valley of al-Haba and the mountains North-East of Latakia. Rest of the work fell on the shoulders of the Russian officers, who arrived in Damascus to coordinate efforts, but in fact forced to persuade the Syrian mercenary troops to commit to combat against ISIS.Despite the creation of a coordination center in Baghdad (it includes war from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Russia), to the specific amplification was not necessary: there was only the exchange of intelligence, as well as appropriate targets for air strikes.The main merit of Iran, according to the officer of the General staff, it is possible to consider involvement in military action of the Lebanese Hezbollah, but the small group of Islamic revolutionary guards Corps participated in the battles only in several directions: “It was a rather nominal support: they are not particularly wanted to fight, even when he agreed to support Assad’s troops in a particular moment, the Iranians fell into a stupor”.
According to a source “the Authorities” in the General staff, the Russian advisors and officers will continue to advise and guide government forces
To remedy the situation when the Syrian General staff in Damascus was established, the apparatus of military advisers and some senior officers are actually sent to the front: they had to manually de-facto create a new army of Assad. In parallel to Syria were sent and the gunners-the gunners — for example, in the area of Jamrat the province of HOMS exactly they carried out adjustments of fire at the enemy from six howitzers “Msta-B” thrown in there to reinforce the government army.This is partly helped: experienced commanders were able to quickly mobilize all available resources, but for radical change that is still not enough.
Activization of actions of the Russian troops followed the tragic events of October–November 2015. First, IG militants carried out the attack on Board the Airbus-A321 companies “Kogalymavia”, EN route from the Egyptian Sharm El-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. And then the fighters from the Turkish air force shot Russian bomber su-24, allegedly crossed the Syrian-Turkish border.Both of these events were a turning point for operations: to aircraft at the airport Hamim added the second wing, situated on the territory of the Russian Federation (in particular, on the airfields Mozdok and Engels): this four fighter su-27CM, eight bombers su-34, and strategic aviation — Tu-22M3, Tu-160 and Tu-95MS. The number involved in the campaign aircraft exceeded 70 cars. The flagship of the Mediterranean grouping of the Russian Navy, became a missile cruiser “Moscow“, equipped with air-300Ф and capable of hitting targets in Syrian airspace. In addition, Hamim with combat crew was quickly deployed the latest anti-aircraft missile system s-400 “Triumph”, covered almost the entire territory of Syria.
The Russian authorities assess the success of the operation is extremely high. With minimum human casualties (according to official figures, killed five soldiers) Russian HQs destroyed more than 2 thousand militants who came from Russia and was carrying a potential threat to national security. Bashar Assad’s troops, according to the Russian military, managed to take the offensive on the main strategic directions: from Latakia expelled terrorists, the restored message with Aleppo, Palmyra continues to sweep the fighters, airbase Quires released.“Only with the support of our aircraft Syrian troops liberated 400 settlements, there has been significant breakthrough in the fight against terrorism”,— reported to the President of the Russian defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The latest achievement and has allowed Putin to order the withdrawal of the main troops.
Aircraft VC held in the Syrian sky over 9 thousand hours. The most intensive campaign for domestic military aviation since the war in Afghanistan has not had an impact on the resources of bombers su-24M and su-25SM, which can result in airworthiness without the factory. This is partly recognized Vladimir Putin, saying that in addition to 33 billion rubles spent on the operation will require “additional costs associated with replenishment of inventory and maintenance of equipment used in Syria”.According to another version, given that began on 27 February truce between the warring in Syria opposition groups, the military didn’t want to risk the attacks: any random hit by them was the cause of the breakdown of the already fragile diplomatic process. Last week Hamim began to leave front-line bombers and attack aircraft: according to the “Authorities”, at the air base will remain helicopters, armored personnel carriers BTR-82A and T-90S tanks, multifunctional fighters su-35 and su-30SM. In addition, according to Putin, Syria will continue to bear the duty air defense systems Pantsir and s-400.“We are taking not all troops, but only the part that at this stage of the operation did not really need,— says the Hero of Russia, ex-commander of the air force, army General Vladimir Mikhailov.— Don’t need to do from this tragedy”.
A statement that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria has sounded in some hours after in Geneva began a new round of negotiations for a peaceful settlement. In it, we recall, is attended by representatives of the Syrian regime, patronized by Saudi Arabia’s Higher Committee on negotiations (WCP) and two groups focused on Moscow and direct talks with the Syrian regime (delegation, formed following the meetings in Moscow, Astana and Cairo, and the so-called group Hamim).
The truce started on the background of belligerent statements of the parties: Damascus, inspired by the support of Russian aviation, showed the intention to fight “to the bitter end”, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia hinted at the possibility of sending ground troops to Syria.Back in February, the CPSU refused to go to Geneva to participate in the negotiations, but before the beginning of the March round was clear: times were able to agree among themselves, Russia and the USA, who acted as the guarantors of the truce, we will have to agree with all the rest, and on the terms prepared by five months of Russian air operations in Syria.
If the “Geneva-1” was held on the background of the military successes of the opposition (campaigns of the Free Syrian army in Aleppo and Idlib), “the Geneva-2” — amid rapid expansion of Sunni jihadist groups and they are both under the auspices of the requirements of the Western and regional allies of the opposition for the immediate resignation of Bashar al-Assad and to the beginning of the current stage, the requirements have changed. Now the statement “Assad must go” has turned into the question “What to do with Assad?”.
The Syrian government delegation behaved unusually confident, bonaterra the idea of a coalition transitional government and refusing to discuss the question of elections in Syria. However, it soon became clear that Washington has pressed Riyadh to them and patronize the opposition, with the last negotiations. It is not known what assurances were received by the interlocutors of Russia in resolving the Syrian crisis, but is better for them announcing the end of the operation would be only the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria.U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry, who have this week to come to Moscow, declared “best in years” opportunities to end the Syrian conflict. Positive step termination operation “Retribution” called foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubayr, who rejected the assumption that Moscow’s decision was the result of an agreement with Riyadh on the reduction of oil production and stabilization of energy prices (speculation on this subject does not cease in the media over the past weeks).The Iranian authorities, apparently, in recent years, and themselves have ceased to be appropriate to the continuation of active hostilities: in December and February it was reported about the withdrawal of several thousand Iranian troops from Syria.
However, the fate of Geneva talks is still unclear. It is unclear how reliably the truce, what are the plans of Ankara and Riyadh, and to what extent Russia and the USA willing and able to exert pressure on the parties involved. As stated by the representative of the UN Secretary General on Syria Staffan de Mistura, at the first stage it is planned to discuss the establishment of a transitional coalition government, the second — the adoption of a new Constitution, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections within 18 months.With the first round of “Geneva-3” should be completed this week, but government representatives would like, if not avoided, it is best to delay the creation of the coalition, which insists the international mediators. Concessions they are ready to go only Pro-Russian groups who do not have influence on the armed opposition. At the same time, the CPSU is the only power in the negotiations associated with fighters of the anti-government forces, requires the creation of a government of national unity, where “no place for Assad”.The only compromise idea made while in Geneva, the federalization, while maintaining the integrity of the country, however, are against this option as the Syrian regime and all opposition groups. “Federalism is very provocative and explosive word in the middle East. For most people this means simply the disintegration of the country, says Hiltermann.— It would be more correct to speak about decentralization.But while early to speak, it is first necessary to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and a thorough examination and discussion of the entire list of features of the future political structure of Syria.” The only force of conflict, which not only accepted the idea of federalism, but immediately started trying to implement it, were the Kurds, in the conflict defending their own interests and are not involved in the negotiations. However, their unilateral initiative found no support.
If before the present settlement in Syria is still very far away, then dividends from discontinued operations for almost half a year Russia has started to now. The issue of Ukraine, if not was eliminated from the agenda of Western countries middle East Affairs, the approach to Russia was clearly balanced. And since the Syrian process does not promise to end in the near future, Russia, remaining in the middle East military-political factor, for a long time to protect themselves from new attempts of international isolation.Moscow remains a key participant in the dialogue about the future of Syria and against Islamic state and similar groups, as enshrined in the recently adopted EU strategy towards Russia.
Will it be possible to convert the current tactical victory into a strategic presence in the region in the long term will depend on its ability to balance between the interests of the key players and to react to changes. You need to understand that the Alawite minority will never control the Sunni majority, and by any means (even having a Sunni) associated with the Assad regime, will fight with supporters and Pro-Iranian Hezbollah (which the League of Arab States at the initiative of Cairo and Riyadh recognized as a terrorist organization).
Regardless of the decision in the end, neither came to Geneva, Syria will long remain a field of mediated confrontation between Tehran and Riyadh, there who will try to play on religious differences. What would it mean for Syria the fall of the regime, in miniature shows a torn Pro-Iranian and Pro-Saudi forces in Lebanon, which, however, owing to its ethnic and religious composition does not represent such opportunities for Wahhabi propaganda.“The question is, who will represent the interests of the Sunnis in Syria, remains open,— warns Hilterman.— And in the current situation the best chance for success with the radicals”.
According to General Vladimir Boldyrev, the special operation HQs in Syria helped Russia to achieve primarily political objectives: “it began”. “We really averted a military catastrophe, a threat which loomed before Assad, we launched these negotiations in Geneva,” says political scientist Anatoly Nesmiyan. “In the case of Syria has changed the political situation has become more advantageous to act using diplomatic methods, not military,” noted orientalist Grigory Melamedov.He believes that al-Assad in the Wake of recent successes expects to take control of the entire country on their own and considers negotiations with the opposition as a tactical move: “the Opposition believes that with the departure of Russia from Syria and in the conditions of a ceasefire it will be easier and she will be able to restore power. It’s hard to say whether Syria together”.
The Syrian campaign has shown not only increased the combat readiness of the army, but peacekeeping is partly created the image of Russia: appearing in the midst of conflict, she was able to bring almost all the interested parties to diplomatic negotiations. In case of failure of the past Moscow has the opportunity to conduct an increasing group in Jamime — it will take no more than a day. However, Vladimir Putin stated on March 17 that such a scenario is undesirable for Russia.