Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 14, 2016

Putin: Withdrawal Of Russian Forces From Syria Starting March 15

This is an extremely interesting and likely very smart move. Putin again catches everyone off guard.

TASS reports:

Putin orders to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15

March 14, 20:40 UTC+3

The Russian leader hopes the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces in the country

MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. Putin orders Russian defense minister to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15.

The Russian president said he hopes the start of the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces of that country and instructed the foreign minister to intensify Russia’s participation in organization of peace process in Syria.

Via other sources Putin said: The armed forces achieved their goals in Syria. The two Air Force and Naval bases in Syria will stay and operate normally. The move was in agreement with the Syrian government.

I believe that, for this to have happened, there must be a deal in place with the U.S. to wind up the Syria situation. What did Putin get in return?

And what units will actually pull out? Three military cooks departing while civilians take up their jobs?

The tide of the war on Syria has changed. There is no longer a danger that Assad will lose the fight.

There were some Russian artillery and special forces units taking part in the ground operations in north Latakia. Latakia is now mostly cleaned up and the Russian bases there are no longer in danger. (The S-400 air defense will of course stay.) Will these troops now be pulled out?

Or is this, as announced, an "incentive" to put some urgency on progress in the Geneva negotiations?  (An "incentive" that can be taken back should it not have the intended results.)

One can also think of this as a message to the U.S. to get serious: "Don't take our help in fighting ISIS for granted. We can simply secure Assad and leave. Then you alone will have to clean up the Jihadi mess you created."

Posted by b on March 14, 2016 at 01:56 PM | Permalink

next page »

It certainly is a surprise but can one feel confident to "trust" any backdoor agreement with the regime-change crowd? What kind of agreement has shelved the jihadi war of regime change or chaos? If the "withdrawl" represents a head-fake with no reduction in capabilities, to which I have not seen any details yet, then it is a masterful stroke otherwise something is not right.

Posted by: thirsty | Mar 14, 2016 2:08:59 PM | 1

Vlad smelled the trap?

Posted by: nmb | Mar 14, 2016 2:17:23 PM | 2

I was going back to find out what "Mission Accomplished" translates for Putin:

In 2015 the first objective was stabilizing Syria's government and preserving a functioning Syrian state by degrading the Wests'proxy terrorists. A second objective was reasserting Russia's power in the ME. A third objective, using Syria as a card against the U.S./E.U and their attacks on Russia via the Ukraine.

So, are these the only objectives? If so, which objectives were achieved for Putin to declare a withdrawl. It would seem to me that at least two of the three are tenative.

Posted by: thirsty | Mar 14, 2016 2:21:10 PM | 3

There were some Russian artillery and special forces units taking part in operations in Latakia. Latakia is now mostly cleaned up. Will some of these troops leave?

I'd like believe this to be the case. Securing Latakia was one of the reasons for the Russian intervention. With that objective virtually within reach of the Syrian government, there'd be little reason to keep that many soldiers and costly equipment in Syria.

Posted by: never mind | Mar 14, 2016 2:21:29 PM | 4

LOL! This is disastrous. Who wants to take bets? I say the ceasefire will not hold, and Putin won't be there for Assad any longer. Turkey, USA and KSA will redouble their efforts to take Syria, and likely succeed

I say Putin has either been compromised, or is a complete blooming idiot

Posted by: aaaa | Mar 14, 2016 2:22:57 PM | 5

Just heard the News from RT and I'm surprise. I can't believe Putin make any deal. Putin must understand Amerikka can never be trusted and That include all EU lapdogs.

Only recently, European Union could impose sanctions on Iran over its recent ballistic missile tests, France's foreign minister said on Sunday.... After Iran bought billions dollars of Airbus aircraft and last year the Mistral helicopter carriers debacles..Damn it! Iran are soo stupid and Putin getting old?

Posted by: Jack Smith | Mar 14, 2016 2:32:19 PM | 6

Moscow Times is an anit-Putin paper. Putin has had very limited objectives in Syria as he was willing to settle for peace before.

Posted by: Les | Mar 14, 2016 2:39:36 PM | 7

Putin = Chess Grandmaster

Barry & Kerry = tenderfoot level whack a mole artists

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 2:39:53 PM | 8

@6 settle.. for what?
No sizable military objectives were obtained,
the ceasefire was called at the most successful instant of the campaign,
the 10s? of thousands of armed, violent, squatting foreign jihadists are STILL THERE.

And to top it all off - Putin now sounds like Obama - after last week's affirmation of Syria's sovereignty.

IMHO Syria is now de-facto partitioned, with all the ingredients for an even bigger disaster for the future.

Mission un-ccomplished

Posted by: aaaa | Mar 14, 2016 2:48:25 PM | 9

The only downside to this announcement is that all the "hurray patriots" in all the comment threads will rush to shed crocodile tears and fret that Russia has made a terrible mistake. The "concern" will be palpable, almost cloying.

Apart from that noise, this has to be good news. Didn't Russia say it expected to be there about 3 months or so? It was always a limited window. Iran has, I believe, several hundred thousand troops ready to pour into Syria if the SAA needs help. But I'm not sure it does.

This was always about restoring Syria to a working state, and restoring the advantage to the Syrian army, which it undoubtedly now has. I gather the air strikes will continue, which is what gave SAA its advantage. If Russia can begin to withdraw unneeded ground force, the message to me would be that Syria is fully on top of its sovereign tasks. I suppose we can expect someone to test this with some provocation, and I expect to see the Syrians put it down.

Posted by: Grieved | Mar 14, 2016 2:49:44 PM | 10

Thanks b...this seems to square with Ghassan Kadi's analysis at the saker, although he see's American foreign policy washing it's hands of the Syria quagmire.

I don't know with the 10 zillion fine levied on Iran that James mentioned in the previous thread. It does seem plausible that the PLA could sell out Palestine for an ersatz postage stamp state, with the Saudis as sensible brokers, and a shrieking bright faced lady preparing the events of Ragnarok.

Hopefully this is just another shining example of Russian diplomacy.

Posted by: Nana2007 | Mar 14, 2016 3:02:01 PM | 11

Well now I know what was this phony ceasefire all about, because it was not about ceasefire that SAA did not need especially that they recruited over 100k new soldiers and weapons are flowing from Russia all the time guarded by the Black see fleet.

It was a Russia-US deal probably normalization of bilateral relations, cut down on arms race, may be removal of sanctions in return of vague unsubstantiated promises of peace in Syria not worth paper they are written on. And most of all effective political abandonment of Assad and millions Syrians who believed in Russians. Clear damage to Putin reputation. Was this because of failing economy?

I hope not, but if Putin believes that US gave up on partition of Syria, I will lose all the faith in him unless it is a realpolitik, feeding Assad to a lion (al-Assad).

Was it worth it? two soldiers dead and plane-full of innocent Russian tourists decapitated?

Finally Vlad cleared the fog:

Posted by: Kalen | Mar 14, 2016 3:09:39 PM | 12

Assad, beware the Ides of March.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Mar 14, 2016 3:16:19 PM | 13

American Corporate Media (MSNBC and CNN) is reporting that it is a complete withdrawal of Russia's military forces including the Air Force. If Russia is keeping its naval base and air bases then I do not see this as a capitulation to Western forces. Is anyone else shocked that the Corporate Media is once again either wrong or lying about Russia's role in the Middle East?

The US will not be able to dislodge Assad with out dislodging Russia from their bases. IMHO, Putin is telling the world that Russia has turned the tide in Syria. Syria, Iran and Hezbollah can handle mop up duty with Russian air support.

I'm no expert but it seems a lot easier to move a battalion of soldiers than set up an air base. If Russian assets are in trouble then Russia can move ground forces into Syria faster than it can move heavy equipment. Russia has also shown that it has the ability to project force into the Middle East from its own territory.

When I first heard of this I thought that Putin was withdrawing and losing face but it looks like he is winning once again.

Posted by: AnEducatedFool | Mar 14, 2016 3:18:37 PM | 14

I have no doubt that Putin knows what he's doing. The problem is, what is it? One interpretation might be that he wants to undercut the Americans at the peace talks. And if they don't agree, he will start again. But I doubt that, as Putin sticks by his decisions. Another might be that he thinks he has enough commitments to truce from the non-Islamist opposition. Another might be that enough Russian air will remain to help against Da'ish. The one explanation that can be excluded is that he is giving up, as Kerry will tell us. Bit of a mystery for the moment.

Posted by: Laguerre | Mar 14, 2016 3:18:43 PM | 15

There is going to be a new war in Lebanon with Israel and Russia wants no part of it. That is why they are getting out now, they don't want to have any more troops there than is needed. Putin is a genius.

Posted by: Fernando Arauxo | Mar 14, 2016 3:25:39 PM | 16

@14 it's not a complete withdrawal -

Posted by: h | Mar 14, 2016 3:28:03 PM | 17

Did b stop his meds ? So Syrian sovereignty doesn't count and what matters is that only Assad gets to stay in power ? Is that a kind of sick joke.

The US gets to invade Syria with two military bases stolen from the Syrian people and with more likely coming. And all this will do is further encourage the Turkish state terrorists, Isreali genocidal maniacs, Saudi paid jihadists and the evil US empire. Oh, but I forgot, making a surprise move is better than good strategy Itself !!!

Read the propaganda lies about how 1500 people in Syria have been killed by chemical attacks and most of that has been the Assad government ! Yeah there's an agreement alright, and the empires agreemeant is to spew lies to create the demand for the military/jihadi overthrow the Syrian government, while the idiot Putin withdraws more troops.

Posted by: tom | Mar 14, 2016 3:30:28 PM | 18

Kerry will approach Peace Talks as an 'EXCEPTIONAL' being. STEP ONE - Assad must go!

Kerry et al will have to deal directly with the Syrian Federal Government led by President Bashar al Assad and his various deputies and ministers.

Hey Kerry! That tingly feeling in the area of your anal pore. It is your own petard Dude. Heh!

Why wouldn't Russia call off the hounds? They have basically ground the opposition to hamburger meat and rendered that opposition a non factor.

Just my opinion.

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 3:31:45 PM | 19

Supposing that this withdrawal isn't a sellout or a completely idiotic thing, does anyone care to speculate what it may mean?
Maybe there is some big deal behind the tables with some opposition groups or something to actually make peace? Is Russia really in big economic shit and it can't afford the campaign? Etc...

Posted by: Tod | Mar 14, 2016 3:36:01 PM | 20

I can't see anything short of a complete selling out by Russia for Western acceptance.

Hezbollah will probably be attacked soon, and a conglomeration of fiefdoms called Sunnistan will soon emerge within Syraq.

Iran should have a day of mourning today!

Posted by: aaaa | Mar 14, 2016 3:44:09 PM | 21

@20 Doesn't really sound like what Russia is being doing for some time. They entered the mess in the first place, I doubt they only did it to show their might.

Posted by: Tod | Mar 14, 2016 3:48:44 PM | 22

re 16 Araxo

There is going to be a new war in Lebanon with Israel and Russia wants no part of it.
That one, no. If the Russians thought that was in prospect, they would stay, and stabilise the situation, even though they wouldn't participate.

Posted by: Laguerre | Mar 14, 2016 3:51:44 PM | 23

re 20

I can't see anything short of a complete selling out by Russia for Western acceptance.
If you think that you're a fool. Putin will not sell out Asad.

Posted by: Laguerre | Mar 14, 2016 3:58:46 PM | 24

Putin hopes the withdrawal of Russian forces will be a motivator for the peace process. That is surely wishful thinking, the Saudi backed opposition have said there can be no agreement with Assad in place, or preferably dead. This together with the US even now talking of funding and arming more "moderate" opposition groups. This cannot but embolden the Assad opposition in all its forms. As to placating the West, you must be joking, they will redouble their disruptive efforts. There must be some agreement with the US of which we are not privy, otherwise, this does not make sense.

Posted by: harrylaw | Mar 14, 2016 4:00:41 PM | 25

On Wednesday, militias allied with the Syrian Army ambushed a convoy of terrorists in the Sweida province, confiscating the weapons they were attempting to transfer to terrorists in the Eastern al-Badiya desert. Among the weapons left behind after the battle were mortar shells, land mines, RPG shells, ammunition of machineguns and Israeli-made LAU missiles.

How do the terrorists in Syria get those Israeli-made weapons? FARS News Agency, via the Times of Israel, has the answer:

In a video uploaded to YouTube by the Executive Sharia Council in the Eastern Daraa region, a court established by al-Nusra in Southern Syria, Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the FSA’s al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms, Times of Israel reported.

Posted by: shadyl | Mar 14, 2016 4:08:31 PM | 26

@ 5 aaaa

Oh yea of little faith. After more than 50 years, do you think Mr. Putin would up and walk away to turn a victory into a defeat.

Most of `Russian advisors for retraining the SAA are pulled. SAA is strengthened and have found new morale, given strength in equipment - new and refurbished. All on schedule as the RF intervention was announced for 6 months, max. The S-400 and submarines -land sea air defense remain in place.

@ 6 Jack Smith

Putin getting old?

No. He is still at his grand master chess game while Obama is attempting to disavow his involvement in Libya.

The key phrase in Mr. Putin’s announcement; “Moscow will, however, maintain a military presence in Syria, and a deadline for complete withdrawal has not yet been announced. Putin also indicated that Russian forces will remain at the port of Tartus and Hmeymim airbase in Latakia.
"Our bases of operations — our naval base in Tartus and our air base at Hmeymim — will operate as usual. They should be protected from land, sea, and air,” Putin said.

The Syria intervention was a rehearsal, a message we are serious, have had enough. The US/UK/EU took note and are bloated with envy. RF is not a regional player and behind the noise there is this: the US has finally agreed to work with Russia:-

Ren-TV via Southfront

Russia is ready to work with America on liberating Raqqa : Lavrov

Posted by: likklemore | Mar 14, 2016 4:13:44 PM | 27

Big Oil doesn't like this cheap oil/gasoline/jet fuel and etc.. Obviously the fat bastards have been whining that they've been forced to go along so that Russia could be damaged economically.

Big Oil is one of the legs of the Vampire Squid/Deep Gov/MIC which runs the world.

They've had the other Vampires - Goldman Sachs and etc shorting the piss out of oil prices way too low for comfort.

Look for gas prices to increase rapidly in the coming weeks.

Posted by: fast freddy | Mar 14, 2016 4:14:59 PM | 28

re 24

Putin hopes the withdrawal of Russian forces will be a motivator for the peace process.
I'm sure that's right, to a degree. There's probably an element where he thinks the Syrians have had enough of war. He could be right.

What I haven't figured out is how Putin plans to deal with Nusra and Da'ish, the Islamists beyond negotiation.

Posted by: Laguerre | Mar 14, 2016 4:18:26 PM | 29

The 'facts on the ground' would leave a thinking person with the opinion that Hizbollah having spent treasure and blood defeating the 'entity' that stole many billions of dollars of Syria's and Iraq's natural resources and also desires to balkanize Syria and Iraq so that these natural resources will be more easily and cheaply appropriated, has sacrificed but not in vain. Look for a Syria/Iran/Iraq/Lebanon/Kurdistan combined mutual defense pact with Russian military bases ala Syria.

I sit here and wonder? Will the new Wall around Jerusalem be missile and bunker buster proof?

Just my opinion.

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 4:20:13 PM | 30

Lovely news on the first day of Lent.

Posted by: juliania | Mar 14, 2016 4:24:30 PM | 31

March 14, 2016 - Today's you cannot make this stuff up winner is ...

"Meanwhile, many of the Islamic State terrorists have been fleeing Syria heading in the south into Jordan. At the same time in recent weeks Saudi Arabia has intensified its interventions to destabilize Jordan and Lebanon in a last gasp ploy to relocate, regroup and reconstitute its terrorist safe zones within territory of Syria’s Arabic neighbors. Saudi Arabia entertains the objective of forcing Lebanese Hezbollah troops from the Syrian front back home to deal with Saudi induced instability in Beirut. No doubt this covert action by US main Muslim allies in the Middle East is part of Kerry’s “Plan B.”

Then several weeks ago Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates abruptly ordered its citizens back home and placed a travel ban to Lebanon. With its capital Beirut only 50 miles from Damascus, this move created speculation over the hyped up, but temporarily delayed plan of invading Syria with the Saudi led 34-Sunni nation “antiterrorist” coalition, of which twenty of those nations sent up to 350,000 troops to northern Saudi Arabia allegedly just now completing several weeks of military exercises.

On Saturday the negotiator of the main Syrian opposition group still called for Assad’s removal by either resignation or death as the precursor to a transition government."

source -

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 4:30:46 PM | 32

I'd say here President Putin is setting an example for the world. Go in, fix the problem with necessary force and then draw down.

Nothing says that Russia cannot be drawn back into the conflict. Imagine the propaganda coup when some idiot Turkish or Saudi brigade attacks the Russians again: if it's severe enough VV Putin will be obliged to announce an immediate operation. As most of the assets are still in the field, it's a small matter to deliver. Moreover, Russia has shown it has fantastic long range strike capability both by missile from the Caspian Sea as well as by air with long range bombers.

Withdrawal is not untrue but those in the know realise it's just to the next room.

I imagine if Russia's patience is tested again, the next round will be much bloodier for the jackals and lackeys at the door. Even Israel might rue a rash demonstration of force.

Remember Sun Tzu: the real power of an army is in not using or exhausting it.

Posted by: Uncoy | Mar 14, 2016 4:43:33 PM | 33

thanks b... i see it as a wise chess move in prep for more...

@ 2 nmb... thanks for the link.. i agree with the last paragraph, but believe the suicide terrorist card is primarily a result of the wahabbi cult... if i am correct in this, eventually the world will have to confront the puritanical religious cult that is bad news for everyone and especially islam.. isis + sa - both head chopping cults motivated by the same whacked out religious ideology..

@5 aaaa. it's just one of many more moves to come and as i see it a good one too for putin.. and @20.. we see it very differently..

@8 alberto..i agree with you..

@15 laguerre... i think putin/russia are biding time til later, waiting on how things unfold in the short to mid term...

@16 fernando.. you might be right about lebannon war.. that's a 64,000 question..

@24 harrylaw.. i think one has to act in good faith even if surrounded by players who act in bad faith. i think it is too early to tell, but in itself is a good pr move - something the west has forgotten how to do and of course even when they get the pr right, it is never backed by actions on the ground..

@27 fast freddy.. you might be right on the oil/gas price move in coming weeks/months..

Posted by: james | Mar 14, 2016 4:50:43 PM | 34

Peace talks to succeed are just fairy tales. Russian activity altought not that expensive does cost money. Soon there will be elections and up till now the mission is seen as a success with the primary objectives (decapitation of Syrian entity averted, safety of its bases in the mediteranean and Russian military hardware showcase) having been reached. So now they want to go back to a more leading from behind role just like the US did who left Afghanistan and Iraq but never actually did. The most active anti-Syrian actor Turkey is now also in the middle of a war with not only the Kurds domestically and abroad in Syria and Iraq but also with radical islamists who have increased attacks domestically which in the coming time will be comparible to the spill over attacks Pakistan has and is still facing from its interference in Afhanistan. If Turkey would try to avert this by posing too much of a danger to the Syrian central authority, Russian military presence would come back to the forefront.

Posted by: borealis | Mar 14, 2016 4:51:53 PM | 35

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans, the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces, the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field, and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

Sun Tzu

Posted by: From The Hague | Mar 14, 2016 4:56:11 PM | 36

From The Hague @35

"and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities."

Sun Tzu's wisdom, considered my many as timeless in its logic, never anticipated the use of Guided Missiles, Bunker Buster Bombs and tactical nukes that have already been used by several government's militaries in the Middle East combat theater.

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 5:06:20 PM | 37

If Turkey happens to be the target, the trap's been baited.

Posted by: Penelope | Mar 14, 2016 5:11:59 PM | 38

Happy Maslenitsa, Comrades!

But seriously, Putin is burnishing the fck out of his legacy. As he should.

Posted by: L Bean | Mar 14, 2016 5:18:02 PM | 39

@ 37 Penelope

You mean?: when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.

Sun Tzu

Posted by: From The Hague | Mar 14, 2016 5:18:44 PM | 40

This shocked me really. I think you're right that some kind of a deal was worked out. Note that this morning Obama announced this:
"In his speech to ambassadors, Obama said he's confident he can make significant progress on foreign policy in the next 10 months."

Yes, it's vague, but I wonder if this, along with the big Atlantic article about his "liberation" after he decided not to bomb Syria in 2013, and his supposed pivot away from the Saudis, is an indication of a real peace agreement.

There is a podcast on Sputnik: "Syrian Peace or Syria to Be Divided Piece by Piece?"

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Mar 14, 2016 5:25:33 PM | 41

This is nothing to get excited about the Russians will still have the Navel base and Air base there with top troops defending Russia interest.

I doubt turkey or israel will do anything other than bitch because they both know the Russia can reach out and touch them with cruise missile or two.

Posted by: jo6pac | Mar 14, 2016 5:32:10 PM | 42

The Saker has a detailed analysis over at his blog, but frankly I think Putin should have waited another three months or so to do this. He should have waited until it was certain that the Syrian Arab Army and its allies could take Raqaa and also that serious negotiations to resolve the crisis were actually under way.

However, as The Saker points out, Russia can come back in as fast as they did originally if things go south. They have likely pre-positioned resources in case they have to come back.

So it may work out. But personally I think the warmongers in Washington, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are coming to capitalize on the pullout in a bad way. You just know there will tons of media bullcrap about how "Putin backs down" and "Russia failed".

I think he should have waited another few months at least.

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Mar 14, 2016 6:05:55 PM | 43

Have a look at this video of Joe Biden in press conference with Netanyahu last week in Israel saying Arab states have had an epiphany and come into Israel's orbit and Russia has "seen the Lord". Starts at 16:44

Transcript here:

Biden, referring to Arab states: "And as we Catholics say, these folks have had an epiphany. They've realized that they'd rather be in your orbit than in the orbit of Daesh and ISIS and terrorism, and al-Nusra, et cetera [...] it's good we're cooperating with Russia in Syria. Right? I mean, that would not have come out of either one of our mouths - at least mine - four or five years ago, but the truth is Russia has seen the Lord on some of these issues as well."

Netanyahu: "Are you sure you want to use that phrase?"
Biden: "Well I wasn't going to use that other phrase."

They left that last bit out of the transcript.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Mar 14, 2016 6:31:49 PM | 44

Well, it buttresses Russia's position as an actor, not a reactor. And if it's to err, it's to err from the 'moral highground', as they say in the depraved USA.

Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15

SouthFront has received a comment on the Russian military withdrawal from Syria from a source close to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“Russia in international relations is continuing to show a fundamentally different approach than the US and the West. The decision on the partial withdrawal of its military from Syria is a move that clearly shows the commitment of the Russian leadership to the sequence of actions aimed at a comprehensive settlement of the crisis by peaceful means. Russia is not looking for an opportunity to gain a colonial resource-rich territory or create puppet regimes, but only provides the necessary and sufficient assistance in the fight against terrorism and extremism seeking to avoid escalation of the conflict and to minimize civilian casualties.”

... sounds right.

And no one's gone anywhere, yet. If it works out no one will be happier than the poor, viciously abused Syrian people.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 14, 2016 6:40:56 PM | 45

Puzzling to say the least! Lets watch and see thhe reactions on the ground..

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 14, 2016 6:43:06 PM | 46

WHAT IF: What if the generals in Ankara have reached out to Vlad and offered a peace deal/removal of Erdogan in exchange for a Russian pullback? Turkey fuels the Syria thing and it's getting out of hand in Turkey. Erdogan kills his political enemies in Ankara and then bombs the Kurds in Iraq *in reprisal*. If the generals have told Vlad that they will shut it down, and he believes them, then it's over. The generals know that they can't send Turkish 18-year-olds over the border to fight. They want to quit while they are ahead, all the damage until now has been in Syria and all the money from Iraq and Syria has poured into Istanbul. Now the tables have turned a bit. What's more, BHO and Kerry can't run their coy little two-step without Turkey. So Vlad doesn't need a US agreement if the Turkish generals pull the plug. The Saudis are bluffing, they just want to drag this out in the hopes that the next Admin in WashDC is dumb enough to come in with boots on the ground. January is a long way away.

Posted by: S.H.E. | Mar 14, 2016 6:52:33 PM | 47

In keeping with the stark contrast of western involvement in the region. Invited, constructive and a lot more transparent. Putin sets a nice benchmark here.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Mar 14, 2016 6:55:18 PM | 48

(In response to Alexander Mercouris on Russia Insider)

1) We may have completely misunderstood the Western expectations in Ukraine. It may be that that the US expected Russia to occupy / "liberate" all of Ukraine in March 2014. It was never the plan to support or hold on to the Maidan regime.

The real aim of the Maidan coup was to start a Cold War between Russia and the West. This would allow the US to make perpetual its occupation of Europe.

As I wrote on February 7, 2014: "From the point of view of Western geopolitical strategy it would be very desirable to see Soviet tanks in the streets of Kiev. In the absence of Soviet tanks Russian tanks will do – if not in Kiev, then at the very least in the Crimea. Western strategy is the same as that in Afghanistan, get Russia tied up to its own Vietnam. Russia must be internationally condemned and isolated from the "international community."

Russian military action in Ukraine would be followed by a remilitarization of Europe under NATO with economic and information war against Russia. These steps have been taken, although they now seem completely disproportional to Russia's true "aggression" in the Ukraine.

Because the awaited Russian invasion of Ukraine never happened, the Russophobic sanctions policy is now in political trouble.

2) Sanctions were NOT intended to cripple the Russian economy!
Russia believes that security in Europe can be mutually guaranteed by strong economic cooperation between EU and Russia. The US correctly believes that European dependence on Russian trade and energy will make European NATO members reluctant to fight a hot war with Russia on American behalf.

The real aim of the sanctions it thus to break economic ties between Europe and the West and make Europe less secure. In this it may have been successful.

3) If Russia has escalatory dominance, why has it not won in Ukraine?

Barack Obama​ said: “Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one, so Russia will always be able to maintain escalatory dominance there.
“The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-Nato country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,”

Obama is correct, Russia has escalatory dominance in Ukraine. It could never lose and NATO could never win. Then why did the West expect to win in Ukraine?

It did not! NATO expected Russia to win and take over all of Ukraine.

But why has Russia not won yet?

The answer may be that Russia sees this not as a battle over Ukraine, but as an existential battle between itself and the West. Russia cannot win on one front when it faces an existential threat on others. To prevail in Ukraine Russia must prevail in all of Europe!

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Mar 14, 2016 7:02:39 PM | 49

Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin confirmed some forces would stay in Syria. "Our military presence will continue to be there, it will be directed mostly at making sure that the ceasefire, the cessation of hostilities, is maintained," he told reporters at the United Nations in New York.

Posted by: okie farmer | Mar 14, 2016 7:09:04 PM | 50

This is nothing to get excited about the Russians will still have the Navel base and Air base there with top troops defending Russia interest.
Posted by: jo6pac | Mar 14, 2016 5:32:10 PM | 41

Yep, nailed it; a non-withdrawal withdrawal. Russian humour at its finest.
Eat your heart out, Obama!

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 14, 2016 7:19:46 PM | 51

Russia Today's March 15 broadcast headlined this news as Mission Accomplished.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 14, 2016 7:39:39 PM | 52

#34- This is a masterfull trap by Mr.Putin- to get Erdogan... watch for 1-2 wks.Maybe Sauds get warning too...

Posted by: sejmon | Mar 14, 2016 8:08:34 PM | 53

A very interesting development.

Of course anything can happen - there is still quite a lot that Turkey, the United States, Saudi Arabia etc. could do to stir up trouble. But for now, it LOOKS as if Putin went in, achieved his objectives, and got out, in record time and on budget.

Compare that to the United States, where we got into Iraq and Afghanistan, and stayed in, and stayed in, and got kicked out, and maybe sorta went back but not really, and achieved no objectives other than making some politically connected defense contractors rich and letting the elites play with their toy soldiers…

If this holds up, the contrast will make Putin look really, really good.

Reason enough for us to mess it up, perhaps?

Posted by: TG | Mar 14, 2016 8:22:34 PM | 54

It's a gamble on Russia's part,but a fairly safe one. The SAA is revitalized and together with its Lebanese, Iranian, Iraqi and Palestinian allies and Kurdish quasi-allies are rolling up Daesh and Nusra on all fronts. The Russian air force has been largely inactive since the start of the ceasefire and since there were scarcely any Russian front line troops in actual combat, it's a political masterstroke to announce their withdrawal.
While there's a risk of giving a morale boost to the Salafists, they must have decided that the existing forces were adequate for the job in hand. There's nothing better than war for learning the arts of war; only last week Israeli defence analysts stated that Hezbollah had been transformed from a guerilla force into a formidable and genuine army, and that's just one of the players.

Posted by: Jono | Mar 14, 2016 8:23:08 PM | 55

Ps, according to Al-Masdar, all aircraft are remaining, it's only the Marine contingent deployed to defend the Russian bases that are going home. If so, it's purely a brilliant propaganda coup.

Posted by: Jono | Mar 14, 2016 8:38:27 PM | 56

Dissecting Putin’s “stop order”

The bottom line is that whatever just happened in Syria was most likely influenced by factors that are not directly related to Syria, and decided in diplomatic meetings far away from Syria. For that reason, all of these relationships need to be closely watched, and anything that looks like a quid-pro-quo for the Russian “stop order” in Syria should be evaluated as possibly being part of an actual quid-pro-quo.

J.Hawk looks at the situation from several perspectives.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 14, 2016 8:46:49 PM | 57

Naive question here:
The US and MSM kept on saying that Russia’s intervention “complicated” the so-called peace process. Is that possible that during backroom talks, the US promised something in exchange of the end of that intervention? Could it be a case of : "Look now, we've done it. What about your move?"

Posted by: jeanv | Mar 14, 2016 8:53:22 PM | 58

Excellent conclusion is the one you offered us...judos spend not energy if not absolutely the game is precisely defined, gambling kids must behave accordingly...finish the job and ... keep the glory for you if you want...or clearly expose yourself as the bunch of hypocrite and traitors you are. I think we can call it temperance. TKY MofA

Posted by: Rihard | Mar 14, 2016 8:58:09 PM | 59

Piecing together the best comments so far, it's a partial withdrawal, and the final extent of it and timeline is unknown, and in any case can be easily reversed - Sun Tzu: "when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away".

A source close to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Russia in international relations is continuing to show a fundamentally different approach than the US and the West. ... Russia is not looking for an opportunity to gain a colonial resource-rich territory or create puppet regimes”. Ouch.

So Russia is taking the moral high ground with an action that the US will not/cannot match, thus giving them the moral low ground, unless they can pressure all their "moderate rebels" and bring the peace talks to a successful conclusion. This would entail the US poking their "good allies" Turkey and Saudi Arabia in eye, and whatever fallout comes from that.

That sounds sufficiently like yet another Putin master-stroke to be the size of it.

Posted by: Palloy | Mar 14, 2016 9:06:46 PM | 60

I said early on that Russia would seek a political solution, and that Sunnistan, Kurista, Allawitestan was the likely result..
Now we have it happening in real time, and I feel like Tuco at the end of The Good/Bad/Ugly.

Posted by: aaaa | Mar 14, 2016 9:12:23 PM | 61

Putin is convinced that both Turkey and Saudi have been sufficiently emasculated to cause no more harm in Syria.
Saudi is begging the USA to help in a face saving exit in Yemen. The rebels they were supporting in Syria are been eradicated by Al Nusra and the left-overs are coming under the Syrian army protection. Saudis seem to be loosing interest in Syria and Lebanon, they need to urgently concentrate on Yemen where Al Qaeda is at their doors.
Turkey is in a spiral of violence, attacked on all sides: The PKK retaliates for the massacres of Kurds in the South East and internal Turkish opposition groups are resorting to terrorism to undermine Erdogan and his party.
As it has lost most of its outlets in the middle east, Turkey is now turning to Europe for trading Yet Erdogan is shamefully using the refugees as a negotiating card to get E.U privileges. That will not make the E.U inclined to establish better trading relations with such an authoritarian regime.
Internally Turkey's situation is getting worse by the day with no hopes of a quick settlement.
Overall the two main trouble makers in Syria seem to accept that they've lost. It is now up to the Syrian government to move into political negotiations and compromises.
Yet Russia and Iran are watching over that process.

Posted by: virgile | Mar 14, 2016 9:14:27 PM | 62

Jeanv, that's just weasel words from the US. The existing government is the only player that stands a chance of uniting all religions and ethnicities. There is no other.
The Russian action has in fact simplified the likelihood of stopping the death and destruction- just not to the liking of those who wanted to see Syria utterly destroyed, that's all.
One can perhaps hope that the brutal Ba'athist state machinery will have been weakened. The removal of Assad by itself will change nothing in that respect.

Posted by: Jono | Mar 14, 2016 9:20:07 PM | 63

I wasn't going to comment again, but here's my monthly reminder that Russia's actions all tend towards building peace rather than winning wars. There is a necessary difference between the two kinds of action, and we are sorely unaccustomed to the peace-building one.

If I were on the ground with Russia holding my arm at breaking point behind my back and I heard Putin's voice say: "Now, we're going to let you stand up, so we can talk. You're not going to do anything foolish are you?" - in this case I believe my answer would be, "No sir, I won't."

People should study the details of what's actually happening. A vast message has been sent, at approximately zero military, tactical cost. On with the bombing, on with the negotiations. Syria rules.

@Penelope #37 -- "If Turkey happens to be the target, the trap's been baited.

I don't believe this is part of the thinking, but I caught my breath at the concept and the succinct way you had of describing it. What's that Middle Eastern saying: If you want to catch a lion, first tether a goat?

Posted by: Grieved | Mar 14, 2016 9:29:28 PM | 64

There are plenty of butt-hurt war dogs who are disillusioned by Putin's pragmatic decision to ramp down further massive mayhem in western Syria. He was well aware after these month of conflict that the Axis Forces would never be able to generate the blitzkrieg that was hoped for at the beginning of Russian bombing.

The Syrian Rebels have won their right to be recognized as the legitimate opposition to Assad and some of them will lead in the transition government.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Mar 14, 2016 9:36:28 PM | 65

From the Kremlin website:

"In this context, Mr Putin said that Russia’s Armed Forces have fulfilled their main mission in Syria and a timetable for the withdrawal of the Aerospace Forces’ main air grouping has been agreed. Russia will maintain an aviation support centre in Syria in order to monitor compliance with the ceasefire."

Sounds pretty clear then that Russia is pulling out its most effective forces. This is a bewildering move and if anyone mentions grandmasters and chess again I will scream. Russia has to stay and tough it our against whoever wants to swing a punch, big or small, until the matter is dealt with ie. ISIS and Al Nusra are no more. That is the moment to pack up. Leaving now looks weak and having to return would also look weak. Putin and Lavrov appear to be obsessed with Russia's image, especially in the West, when the Empire respects only the threat of brute and overwhelming force against it and the will to carry it out if necessary.

Posted by: Lochearn

Posted by: Lochearn | Mar 14, 2016 9:36:48 PM | 66

Just nominated for Nobel Peace Prize: falling oil prices.

Posted by: Louis Proyect | Mar 14, 2016 9:38:23 PM | 67

-- red banner at top of home page

Coming straight from so-called "putin propaganda rag", that's unambiguous enough, isn't it? The pullout will start on March 15th, but not at all from Tartus or Latakia. Presumably withdrawal of troops can be retarded or accelerated as necessary. I guarantee that Putin is not banking on Obama's good faith. Also any anticipated or unanticipated developments in Ukraine or on the sanctions front are presumably tied up with all this somehow.

Posted by: kral | Mar 14, 2016 10:01:50 PM | 68

In September 2015 almost after 5 years of civil war in Syria the elected government and President Dr. Bashar al-Assad must go seem almost a certainty. Wave after waves of defeats, include lies after lies and more lies from the liar-in-chief including WMD in Aleppo. It looks like Syria Dr. Assad will finally have to go.

But, but...... in October and after 5 months of Russia air campaign with Iranians and Hezbollah boots on the ground the game change the tides turn in favor of President Dr. Bashar al-Assad

There were setbacks but mostly victories big or small. Dr. Assad is winning. I salute Putin and may even a write-in vote for him in November....

Posted by: Jack Smith | Mar 14, 2016 10:41:49 PM | 69

The Syrian 'opposition' that will negotiate in Geneva. Have they achieved even one victory in the last 4 months? This Syrian 'opposition' is demanding that Assad step down as a precondition to any negotiations. Apparently unfolding events are being dictated by people who are following the Marxists, Groucho, Harpo & Chico. The script is 1933's 'Duck Soup.' Hail Fredonia!

Soon demands will be made in International Courts of Justice that Israel and Turkey pay Syria and Iraq $1.5 trillion dollars for the the oil that has been looted and sold. This should be a very interesting freak show.

Just my opinion

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 10:48:41 PM | 70

Also 100 billion dollars stolen by the Erdogan clan.

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 10:50:34 PM | 71

According to Al Masdar News, RFAF stays in Syria, only the Marines will withdraw. The announcement is vintage Putin: somewhat ambiguous and yet...

One way to interpret it is that Russia, unlike the West, does not foster deep dependency in a "customer state": it provides weapons, and ADEQUATE training, and works on concrete solutions in a partnership with the local people. By the way of contrast, the results of American, or more generally, Western training and supplies seem to be woeful, as tested by Iraqis, Afghanis and the Gulfies, earlier by South Vietnamese.

After all, Russian weapon export has large potential, something very important in the period of cheap oil. There is also technology transfer to the civilian sector, but this is more a long term proposition. It used to be something like Western F-16's versus Soviet AK-47's but now Russia may have the edge, and a decisive edge when the "whole package" is considered. A self-sufficient SAA would be exhibit one.

In short, Russian ground forces were needed only when the security near the bases was precarious and that is not true anymore. And as SAA air force is being improved, Russian presence will be less vital and perhaps redundant. If true, it would be very positive for Syrian government and for Russia. So far, Russian presence is very well appreciated, but even with ideological allies the welcome can wear off. Of course, several more subtle possibilities exist: e.g. more free hands to deploy in Donbas or some less obvious direction like Yemen or Iraq.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Mar 14, 2016 10:53:23 PM | 72

@46 she.. interesting speculation.. anything is possible i suppose..

@48 Petri Krohn..i agree with the conclusion given at the end of your post.

@63 grieved.. good analogy and commentary. thanks...

Posted by: james | Mar 14, 2016 11:15:06 PM | 73

"The Obama Doctrine" piece in The Atlantic discussed here a few days ago. The author of this piece Jeffery Goldberg is a guest commentator this evening on The Charlie Rose show. There is a huge theatrical set with huge pictures of Bathhouse Barry and various other neoconservative ideological hand puppet mental midgets. Goldberg is talking as if we, the U$A have the upper hand in the middle east. Most hilarious is Goldberg's description of Russia as a regional power. He is very closely following the MSM approved reality script. Very pathetic that our great nation has fallen to these delusional depths. Very sad days indeed.

Just my opinion

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 14, 2016 11:28:18 PM | 74

It could be that Putin is already anticipating Trump becoming president and moving now to limit Russia's involvement in Syria knowing that Trump would want to dump the whole mess in Putin's lap. That along with the fact that killing more Sunni Muslims is not good for Russian relations in the region.

The bloody military solution so many people here were salivating over was never realistic with the weak Axis forces, SAA, Iranian, Hezbollah and militias galore unable, even with massive Russian air power, to take one large city, close the Turkish frontier or remove rebels from Damascus.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Mar 14, 2016 11:33:05 PM | 75

Of course manpads are now in the hands of the rebels. Could the have something to do with the end of the air war?

Posted by: Russell | Mar 14, 2016 11:45:16 PM | 76

Petri @ 48,
" If Russia has escalatory dominance, why has it not won in Ukraine?"

As you say, it would be expensive in its relations w Europe. Russia has a long tradition of being for peace. Even the Afghan War was as a result of provocations by the Afghanis. (Ironic, that. US & Russia had recently built the roads in Afghanistan that the Russian tanks used.)
Also Russia is a very large, quite sparsely populated land whose population continues to dwindle, absent immigration. She has two populous near neighbors in China & India. Russia has a lot of poverty, her medical system isn't great, as it once was. She is, for reasons not clear to me, not master of her own currency. If she took on Ukraine, an aging population w negative population growth, imagine the cost in pensions alone. Holding Ukraine wd require great investment into the economy, and if Russia were permitted to issue her own investment credits I'm sure she would invest them into her own economy.

Your analysis that the US preoccupation was to stop the growing economic ties between EU, especially Germany, and Russia was what I thought, too. But now I wonder "To what extent do the leaders of the principal countries wish what's best for their own nations?" Are they really so controlled that they cannot even turn down harmful economic sanctions, or do they share the plan for a global oligarchy? Is the US in cahoots w the EU in supplying a pretext for a corrupt leadership to give to its own population? It's begun to seem possible to me that leaders in the EU are there to manage the economic downfall of Europe, just as they are here in America.

Posted by: Penelope | Mar 15, 2016 12:09:57 AM | 77

Penelope said:
It's begun to seem possible to me that leaders in the EU are there to manage the economic downfall of Europe, just as they are here in America.

The global plutocrats are having their puppets manage the death of the EU social safety nets under the auspices of economic austerity. Since there is not financial integration with the EU the global plutocrats are able to play EU countries against each other as they try to maintain a functioning economy in their countries which have historically had extensive bilateral trade with Russia.

I agree that Russia is limiting its military investment in Syria partially because it can't print its own "Reserve Currency" like the war criminal nation that Amerika has become. That said, along with its withdrawal it is demanding the the Kurds be include in future negotiations which should force the Turkey expansion try into Syria issue.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 15, 2016 12:58:38 AM | 78

@7 pb ' ... or Iraq.'

That's where they're needed. To stand up the Iraqis as they've stood up the Syrians. But the Russians and the Syrian executive were on the same side, working together. The Iraqi government still seems to work for the USA.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 15, 2016 1:13:44 AM | 79

Then there's this theory:

Of course Saudis and Turkey are going to try to exploit this departure. Netanyahu's content because his neighbors are in chaos; and he'll block any path for Assad or stability by fabricating his own kind of trouble.

Biden bragged Russia's seen the Lord...

Does he mean Russia was humbled or that it saw the light? But is it the light according to American interests and not Russian interests?

All I can say is: Iran trust no one and keep sharpening the ballistic missiles.

For now relative calm; and very tentative. U.S. elections will play a role in how long this interlude of negotiation lasts depending on which nutcase wins the Presidency. Hillary and Rubio being the most dangerous.

I think Putin figures this pause will last long enough to take a step back, see how things unfold and recharge for when it all blows up. And it will because one only has to look at the players to know how false they are: U.S., Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and of course the opposition. Nothing balanced and lasting will ever come from this bunch of greedy pariahs.

Posted by: Circe | Mar 15, 2016 3:35:27 AM | 80

And just one day after after Putin's announcement, Erdogan today gathers (ehhm) 'moderate' rebel fractions in Ankara.

This move by Putin is many things but not a complete withdrawal.

We're not in the business of complete awe of any leader, and Putin for that matter as well.

There are many intertwined actions taking place:

***Davutoglu being in Ukraine, followed by Ukranian president's visit to Ankara,
***Two major blasts in Ankara only three weeks apart,
***Putin announces the day after he talked to Obama on Syria cessation,
***Still low gas/oil/commodity prices amidst Russia's dwindling economy
***Iran/Hezbollah impact on the ground in Syria with Russia still keeping its aerial attack capabilities on the table
*** Potential quagmire/civil war taking place in Turkey with PKK and all the other fractions over the next 1-2-3 months followed by a military rule
***Saudi/UAE/Qatari black money laundering in hundreds&hundreds of billion USD finding its way into press finally and bringing out a major operations (though I'm not holding my breath on this last one),

and many other factors impacting timeline the whole Syrian debacle.

My guess, as I stated previously, once one or two leaders taken from the equation (Erdogan comes to mind naturally, second would be new Saudi throne, and Assad for accepting a friendly/secular transitional government), the Syrian quagmire would recede somehow compared to last 5-years of bloodshed, followed by some form of removal of ISIS from Mosul.

As long as the US/Nato modus operandi continues keeping these loose cannons at power, I, for one, do not expect radical change in status quo.

Posted by: Truist | Mar 15, 2016 5:08:55 AM | 81

@ 34 James, thanks. I believe that religion is only a vehicle to create fanatics who help the elites to fulfill deeper targets.

Posted by: nmb | Mar 15, 2016 5:09:41 AM | 82

Hoarsewhisperer says:

a non-withdrawal withdrawal. Russian humour at its finest

yep, i'll go along with that, and we need more of it, humour in politics, that is.

i mean, i would've waited for that sole aircraft carrier to show up...and then delivered the 'mission accomplished' punch line from the flightdeck.

Posted by: john | Mar 15, 2016 5:13:12 AM | 83

@72'Piotr Berman
I like the 'Syria as Middle eastern Showcase' train of thought - Putin is actually only backing up what he had said at the beginning of Russian involvement: This will be a matter of months. So yes, a fantastic showcase of Russian cooperation and technology. You'd have to be thinking others in the region are rather envious of the support Assad has had - in contrast with average to poor western influence in the region. Short involvement, long game.... Syria gets an update, overhaul and refit.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Mar 15, 2016 5:54:08 AM | 84

Those who paid attention to my previous post (titled from the UN side) will have understood that de Mistura (with the concert one presumes of Russia and the US) have muzzled Turkey, Qatar, and KSA. He almost said so explicitly, I translated his words carefully. One should also note that Putin’s ‘withdrawal’ (partial and potentially temporary as pointed out by many) coincides almost to the hour with the start of the Geneva talks (yesterday, Monday, was spent organising.) In my mind, this ‘withdrawal’ was decided on by Russia and the US. (Which won’t prevent the West from presenting Putin as a devil, others seeing him as caving in, etc.) de Mistura also stated forcibly and openly (as I posted) that if these negotiations fail it means a return to war. This is a very surprising and strong statement for a diplomat. Unheard of really. (Usually it is ‘we have high hopes are making progress time is needed yada yada.) de Mistura is pre-empting his own failure, he is laying his words and aims on the line. To me, this means that all the belligerent parties have been threatened with ‘enough is enough’ - do you want total war? Except, of course, for Russia: as it is unilaterally …withdrawing!

Putin doubters should put a sock in it. Russia’s aims seem to me to be largely (if not completely, as Putin himself intimated) fulfilled. There is some glimmer of optimism here. I hope!

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 15, 2016 6:01:33 AM | 85

Mr Putin, however, said Hmeimim airbase and Russia's Mediterranean naval base at Tartus would continue to operate as normal.

Posted by: okie farmer | Mar 15, 2016 6:10:12 AM | 86

More on diplomacy.

Lavrov to Putin, March 14. (He spoke after Shoigu):

Mr President, in addition to the results that were achieved directly on the ground during military actions to repress terrorists, our Aerospace Forces operation helped create conditions for the political process. We have consistently advocated establishing an intra-Syrian dialogue in accordance with the decisions made in 2012. Our suggestions were met with a lack of will on the part of all our partners working on this process. But since the start of the operations by our Aerospace Forces, the situation began to change.

The initial steps were gradually taken, first based on your talks with US President Barack Obama: the Russian-American group began to prepare a broader process for external support for intra-Syrian talks. An international Syria support group was created, which included all the key players without exception, including regional powers. Agreements on the parameters for the Syrian political process achieved in this group were approved by two UN Security Council resolutions, which confirmed the three-way process of ceasing hostilities, broadening access to humanitarian supplies in previously besieged areas and starting intra-Syrian talks.

Thanks to these decisions, including your latest agreement with President Obama, today intra-Syrian talks between the Government delegation and delegations of multiple opposition groups have finally been launched in Geneva. The work is difficult and we have yet to see how all these groups can gather at one table. For now, UN representatives are working individually with each of them, but the process has begun, and it is in our common interest to make it sustainable and irreversible.

Putin-Assad phone call March 14.

Obama-Putin call March 15.

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 15, 2016 8:12:25 AM | 87

seems sorties stil being carried out

Posted by: brian | Mar 15, 2016 10:08:44 AM | 88

PBS March 14, 2016 Charlie Rose show. After the Atlantic's Jeffery Goldberg 1/2 hour 'The Bathouse Barry Doctrine' infospew three (CFR, NYTs, & a token female) ivy league bedwetting ideological hired hand puppets held forth on the current state of the world. Same script. Same denial of reality. Just infospewing what their boss' want said.

Orwell's "1984" is nonfiction. At the least the bread and circus in Oceania is fantastic.

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 15, 2016 10:11:31 AM | 89

Posted by: Lochearn | Mar 14, 2016 9:36:48 PM | 66

grandmaster and chess....!.....

iwant to hear u scream....though onthe internet,,,,noone can hear u scream

Posted by: brian | Mar 15, 2016 10:12:45 AM | 90

A Russian diplomat sought to reassure Israel on Tuesday that its security would not be harmed by the winding down of Moscow's intervention in the Syrian civil war, but Israel's armed forces chief said the ramifications were not yet clear.

Israeli officials have privately said Russian forces sent in last year to help Syrian President Bashar Assad turn the tide against a now five-year-old rebellion also served to restrain his anti-Israeli allies - Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.

Israel was further helped by a hotline to the main Russian airbase at Hmeymim in Syrai, which let it continue covert strikes to foil suspected Hezbollah or Iranian operations against it on Syrian turf without fear of accidentally clashing with Moscow.

Posted by: Les | Mar 15, 2016 11:09:10 AM | 91

1. The original goal was to save Assad from a military defeat. To do so, strategic areas and routes had to be secured, plus the area around the Russians' main naval base. To a significant degree, this has been accomplished.

2. To stress, the original goal could not have been to "defeat" ISIS. Assad's forces even with Iran and Hezbollah "volunteers" are woefully insufficient for such an operation in both quantity and quality, and there was no way Russian ground troops were ever going in. Secondarily, the key ISIS strongholds are in Iraq, which Americans still view as "theirs" even as they are not truly in control.

3. Especially in recent weeks' offensives, Assad's opposition has been hammered from all sides. Presumably the though process in the Kremlin has been to hit them until they see that the diplomatic solution is a better alternative. I personally doubt whether a negotiated peace can be made at this point, but in any case if you were going to declare "mission accomplished", now, when the opposition is weak, when there is an iota of diplomatic progress and when Assad looks secure is as good a time as any.

4. The American elections may also have something to do with it. Rhetoric is rhetoric, but more than one person or faction in Washington has been talking about troops back in Iraq, no-fly zones in Syria and so on. Obama, for all his faults, had been staying out of the whole dumpster fire to a greater or lesser degree, ineffectual bombing operations in Iraq notwithstanding. Post-November? Who knows? Who wants to be around to find out?

5. Looking ahead.

- Presumably some Russian forces and advisers will remain in the region. Not the least because Russia has been shipping some new equipment to the Syrians and this needs to be maintained, serviced, etc. In turn, support for Assad preserving his current position will continue, as will the diplomatic efforts to freeze the conflict in some fashion. "Officially", however, the Kremlin can say "we're out" and declare victory for domestic propaganda purposes.

- Can Assad truly hold on? Well, there are three ways he does not. One - the opposition is reconstituted and gets back on the offensive. Clearly there is a bet that won't happen. Two - ISIS decides to drop everything and go after Assad. I am assuming the bet is it will be too busy with the Kurds, the Americans, whoever else, to really bother. Three - the Americans directly intervene...

...except that I do not think the Kremlin sees them intervening in Syria. Establishing a no-fly zone now looks ridiculous and is basically naked aggression from an internationalist standpoint. ISIS is mostly in Iraq. And insofar as any ground troops - for all their bluster, American politicians and generals prefer the kinds of wars where they don't have to do a lot of heavy fighting, especially on the ground. They need other people to serve and die as their infantry, and while they might find some to go at ISIS, Assad is now - post-Russian help - a rather different animal.

[For avoidance of doubt. It is no accident that the Pentagon's website used to call the Second Battle of Fallujah a "battle" that was the bloodiest since the days Vietnam War". Total coalition casualties 100 dead and 600 wounded sustained in clearing out a couple of thousand insurgents with five or six times that number of troops. Now imagine an American ground offensive anywhere in Syria. Or even against ISIS in Iraq. I personally cannot.]

- Can a diplomatic solution succeed? I do not think the anti-Assad players want it to. But then, look at Ukraine. The conflict is officially not ended, and the U.S. continues to posture, bluster and huff and puff - but in practice, in reality, the front lines have stabilized and no-one is really expecting a big offensive from either side in the visible future, nor a direct intervention by either side's sponsors. So we have a frozen war, much like in Abkhazia-Ossetia, Transdnistria, Karabah, and now, potentially, Syria. Or that might be the Kremlin's thought process, I guess.

Posted by: Angry Panda | Mar 15, 2016 11:16:50 AM | 92

What ever happened to Mohammad Alloush 'Chief negotiator of the opposition'? Has he been dumped after the Syrian government refused to deal with him?
It seems that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are using the Russia's "withdrawal" as a pretext to start their U-Turn on Syria.

Dubai: Syria’s opposition is “not against” direct talks with the country’s government, RIA news agency quoted Salim Al Muslat, spokesman for the main Syrian opposition alliance in Geneva, as saying on Tuesday.

“We are not against the beginning of direct talks,” RIA quoted Al Muslat, who is chief spokesman for the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, as saying.

The group also said that Russia’s withdrawal of forces from the country will help peace talks in Geneva.

Posted by: virgile | Mar 15, 2016 11:27:00 AM | 93

@80 - Putin is a neoliberal leader of the Russian republic. He's already diplomatically betrayed the likes of Saddam,Gaddafi, Assad and Iran. Russia and china leadership are western sell-outs.

All these hopes and dreams for newly rearmed Sunni/Wahabist militias and their backers to play nice and not resume their conquest will be exposed as fraudulent in short order.

Putin will then probably chastise Iran if it moves in heavily to defend Allawitestan!!

Posted by: aaaa | Mar 15, 2016 12:18:00 PM | 95

De Mistura made it clear that if the Geneva negotiations go nowhere, the war will restart.
Putin's move is a trust building gesture toward Saudi Arabia and Turkey so that they push the opposition they support to enter into serious negotiations without preconditions.
If they respond negatively, Russia will interpret that as a declaration of war and will have the military return and bomb the rebels to extinction.
Until know the opposition is praising Russia for that move. Let see of that praise will stand the pressures.

Posted by: virgile | Mar 15, 2016 12:32:09 PM | 96

@93 good, I hope obama has in fact tempered down relations with the saudis especially since we now know bandar bin sultan had planned to shoot down air force one prior to 9/11.(these are unsubstantiated speculations) but I think it's become increasingly clear that the saudis are the source of innumerable evils in the form of islamist factions among other things.

Posted by: Au | Mar 15, 2016 12:39:14 PM | 97

I meant @94

Posted by: Au | Mar 15, 2016 12:39:55 PM | 98

@82 nmb. thanks also.. we see it much the same..

@92 angry panda.. thanks for sharing your views.. a frozen war might indeed be the wish on russia's part here..

Posted by: james | Mar 15, 2016 12:45:13 PM | 99

Putin's giving another master class in foreign policy and realpolitik strategy. Where can one sign up? Cuz I'm fucking envious. The Rus are in line to be actual world LEADERS. By simply doing the right thing. For themselves and humanity. And to think. Could'a been US. We coulda/shoulda been a contender. But our "big-brother" MIC, NEOCON, WAllSTREET and MEDIA let us down. Tick-tock.

Posted by: 4H | Mar 15, 2016 12:59:50 PM | 100

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