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 17:56 UTC | Permalink

« previous page

There's this very interesting comment at Sic Semper Tyrranis. In short, the RUAF is not as needed as it was before. Here's the comment:

aleksandar a écrit en réponse à Ghost ship...

Before the arrival of the Russian contingent, the Syrian aviation was not equipped with high precision guided weapons which could provide support for ground troops. It used mainly rockets of 57 mm calibre and bombs FAB-50, FAB-100, launched in dive from 1 500 to 3 000 m. So, Syrian planes were vulnerable to 23 and 30 mm caliber AA, and MANPADs, what explains the numerous losses undergone by the Syrian aviation. Meanwhile, 21 bomber Su-24MK of the SAA were upgraded in Russian aeronautics factory N ° 514 ARZ in Rzhev, and put in the standard of Su-24M2, endowed with systems integrating navigation and precision weapons guidance systems (PNS-M). In 2015, Russia had supplied in Syrian aviation with engines and state-of-the-art avionics to bring 64 planes MiG-23BN / MLD to the standard of MiG-23-98.
MiG-23 possesses equipments OLS-M, class LANTIRN, for the night navigation, infrared detection of ground targets and a multi weapons guidance system, Now, the Syrian plane Su-24 and MiG-23 can execute precision bombardments, day and night,out of reach of MANPADS. They were able in particular to destroy with penetrating bombs HQ underground tunnel that Jihadists had built almost everywhere.
A lot of job behind the curtain.
IMO russians have very good intel about ISIS strenght, manpower and capabilities and know that due to destructions, desertions and deaths, SAA/ ISIS balance of power has changed.
Some kind of " Do it yourself now ! "

Posted by: L'Akratique | Mar 15 2016 17:16 utc | 101

I never thought these Russian marines were in Syria to do the grunt fighting. Rather, the Russians really meant it when they said they would only be there a few months. And the reason was, they needed to do a complete on-the-ground survey of who and what was where. So now that has been done, the necessary spies have been installed, the jets have inspected the terrain (remember all the heavy electronic warfare kit they sent in), etc.

Now they don't need so many guys with guns, or even jet planes, since they can now just use rockets "surgically" in most situations. I assumed they were performing an intelligence, not (except for the bombing) a military operation. Now they can just use missiles, unless perhaps, Turkey starts something on the border. Even then, they can just send a few rockets.

Posted by: blues | Mar 15 2016 17:25 utc | 102

Posted today Angry Arab

Monday, March 14, 2016
The end of Force 13: Now those are supposed to be the US-trained "moderate Syrian rebels"
In US media the Force 13 is called "pro-Western". Yesterday, it was defeated by Nusrah front and its US-supplied weapons and equipments were confiscated. Here are the various militias which make up Force 13 (note the religious names):
مَن هي «الفرقة 13»
تشكلت «الفرقة 13» منتصف العام 2013 من اجتماع الفصائل التالية:
١ـ «لواء عباد الرحمن» بقيادة المقدم احمد السعود/ معرة النعمان وهو قائد «الفرقة» أيضاً.
٢ـ «لواء درع ادلب» بقيادة ايمن العباس/معصران.
٣ـ «لواء درع الشمال» بقيادة مهنا عمار الدين /خان السبل.
٤ـ «لواء فرسان الحق» بقيادة المقدم فارس البيوش / كفرنبل.
٥ـ «لواء ثوار الأحرار» بقيادة محمد المؤيد / معرشمشة.
٦ـ تجمع «كتائب درع خان شيخون» بقيادة الرائد مصطفى الكنج/ خان شيخون.
٧ـ «لواء أحرار 15 آذار» بقيادة الرائد موسى الخالد / كفرومة.
٨ـ «لواء الإمام البخاري» بقيادة النقيب علي السلوم / حيش.
٩ـ «لواء ذي قار» بقيادة المقدم حسن جاويش / حزانو.
١٠ـ «لواء الحسم» بقيادة عبد السلام الابراهيم / معرتحرمة.
١١ـ «لواء الحمزة» بقيادة محمد الاطرش / معرة النعمان
١٢ـ «لواء التوحيد» بقيادة وسام الزين/ ادلب.

Google translate;

13 »
Formed «band 13» mid-2013 following a meeting of the factions:
1 «Brigade sunflower Rahman» led by Colonel Ahmed Soud / Maart, a commander «band», too.
2 «Brigade Shield Idlib» led by Ayman Al-Abbas / Masran.
3 «Brigade Shield North» led by Ammar al-Muhanna religion / Khan ways.
4 «Brigade Knights of the right» led submitted Knight Albyosh / Kafr Nabl.
5 «the banner of the Liberal rebels» led by Mohamed pro / Marhamshh.
6 rally «shield Khan Shaykhun Brigades» led by Major Mustafa Ganges / Khan Shaykhun.
7 «brigade free March 15» led by Major Musa immortal / Kfromh.
8 «brigade Imam Bukhari» led by Captain Ali Salloum / Hah.
9 «Brigade Dhi Qar» led by Lieutenant-Colonel Hasan Jawish / Haranabush.
10 «Brigade decisiveness» led by Abdul Salam Al-Ibrahim / Martahramh.
11 «Brigade Hamza» led by Mohammed al-Atrash / Maart
12 «Al-Tawhid Brigade» led by Sam Zein / Idlib

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 15 2016 17:28 utc | 103

Opinions from ConsortiumNews:

"Putin shuns syrian quagmire"

"Risks in Russia's withdrawal"

Posted by: Willy2 | Mar 15 2016 17:58 utc | 104

Interesting links at Sputnik on prouncements by those caught off-guard

~Pentagon claims Russia continues airstrikes in Syria


fewer than 10 Russian Aircraft left Syria

Stratfor has its views of the partial withdrawal announced by the RF –main objectives achieved

The first, it suggests, is “ensuring the stability of the allied Syrian government and by extension Russian interests in Syria.”

The second, it says, is “demonstrating and testing its armed forces, which are undergoing a significant force modernization.”

The third, Stratfor claims, is “weakening the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations, especially given the large number of Russian nationals fighting in Syria among extremist factions.”

And the fourth, and the most important, it states is “for Russia to link its actions in Syria to other issues — including the conflict in Ukraine, disputes with the European Union and US sanctions on Russia.”

Posted by: likklemore | Mar 15 2016 20:02 utc | 105

To think that the Empire will be satisfied with its conquests and won't move on to Plan B infiltrating Lebanon and destabilizing that country as well to achieve its regional supremacy with Syria being the key component is ludicrous.

Russia lost when it came to pre-empting the invasion of Iraq because it failed to foresee the greater imperial plan in motion back then when a casus belli for war was being fabricated by Neocon Zionists and spit out through Colin Powell. Putin was also out-played when he agreed to the Libya Resolution. You'd think he would still be smarting from the first time the Empire screwed Russia over and would have vowed.: Once bitten; twice shy!

I understand that continuing a bombing campaign with no political progress is counterproductive; but the goal since Assad agreed to Russian presence at Tartus has been to get the Russians out of there by any subversive means possible. This has always been an unspoken part of the larger scheme.

Putin better stay vigilant and maintain readiness because this is not over by a long shot.

And for Putin to trust in any way that snake Netanyahu who helped author the plan for AngloZio hegemony in the region is beyond belief.

There's a reason why Netanyahu warned Biden when Biden bragged Russia has seen the Lord:

Netanyahu: You’re sure you want to use that phrase?

Biden: Well I wasn’t going to use the other phrase–umm. But at any rate….

What other phrase?: Get the hell out of Syria, or else...!

Netanyahu likes to keeps his cards close to the chest where the goal regarding Russia is concerned; while Biden can't help blurting things out before the objective is met.

Russians have failed to foresee the Empire's regional manoeuvres in the past; let's hope Putin remains on top of this now, especially, after what he's already given away and just invested in Syria.

I'm not saying he did wrong to withdraw or that he hasn't learned from the past not to trust these pariahs; I'm just saying he should remain on ready alert and not fall into another trap like he did with Libya.

And postscript: I wouldn't trust el-Sissi who's deep under the covers with Zionists as far as I could spit! And after all the arms that Russia supplies Egypt with; has Egypt ever offered Russia an alternative port to Tartus...and why is that?

Does Lebanon have a suitable contingency port in case of escalation? There are serious questions to consider when looking ahead at the broader picture which is pretty grim. Hopefully Putin won't be caught off guard as he was since the Zio Ango empire starting rearranging the face of the Middle East for the purpose of dominion.

Posted by: Circe | Mar 15 2016 20:09 utc | 106

Circe @106

I thought the other phrase might be: "a come to Jesus moment"; a phrase comes more naturally to a Christian American.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Mar 15 2016 21:08 utc | 107

re 103

Google translate didn't do a good job. "Brigade sunflower Rahman" should be Brigade of the Slaves of God (al-Rahman). "the banner of the Liberal rebels" should be brigade of the Free Revolutionaries.

It would be interesting to plot out on a map the placenames mentioned, find out where they were located.

Posted by: Laguerre | Mar 15 2016 21:17 utc | 108

@106 it's not so much putin being caught off guard as is it Putin being unwilling to back partners. Russia has been completely untrustworthy, and fully self-interested.

Remember, it was Putin that undercut the SAA and got fighters unnecessarily killed with the ceasefire while they were ahead.

I think Putin just wants to retire to the USA as a shirtless miniature cowboy

Posted by: aaaa | Mar 15 2016 21:45 utc | 109

#106: During the Iraq invasion, Putin/Russia were not in a position to outmaneuver neocons. Those days when GWB looked into Putin's "heart" musta been interesting for VV. Russia was tryna survive and not get dragged down by the sheer force of crazy coming outta DC. Now is different. Not only does Russia have surer footing (internal/external) but Americans are beginning to wake-up in significant numbers. Hence Trump. This is a factor which cannot be overemphasized. Putin needs decent American citizens to SEE what's been (and being) done to them and to others in their names.

Things are changing rapidly now. And VVPutin is an EXPERT gamer.

Posted by: 4H | Mar 15 2016 22:01 utc | 110


Yeah, me too lol

Posted by: tamlin | Mar 15 2016 22:32 utc | 111

Noirette, you have been a beacon of reason since the beginning of the Syrian war

Russia's withdrawal only makes sense in the light of a US commitment to strong-arm its "allies" in the ME - Turkey, SA, Qatar (plus, a broader change of mind among the internal opposition)

if Putin trusts the US on this, he must have his reasons: withdrawing declaring you reached your objectives, then having to come back doesn't seem to make much sense; btw, he wasn't conned over Lybia, Medevedev was;

my only real doubt is: what about Israel? it was happy to see Syria destroyed, it isn't happy at all to see it stabilized again with "the axis of resistance" on the winning side, what will it do now, what can it do?

Posted by: claudio | Mar 15 2016 22:33 utc | 112

@85 @87 noirette

I second claudio @112, and since long before the beginning of the Syrian war.

Thanks for the links to the kremlin.

@99 @110 4h

My feelings exactly on our USA ... we had it all for seventy years and booted it completely. Not only the Russians but more pointedly the Cubans make that glaringly apparent.

The recent sequence of events in North West Africa was signal, for instance :

1. US builds labs there to weaponize ebola.
2. Massive ebola outbreak ensues.
3a. Cuba sends doctors to succor the people affected, to control and end the ebola outbreak.
3b. The US takes the 'opportunity' to send troops, to intimidate everyone, no doubt the Cuban doctors in particular, and to kill whoever might have survived ebola and need killin'.

This in the face of the CIA : “Proudly overthrowing the Cuban government since 1959.”

Think of what we might have done - vast, rich country that we are - with our 15 minutes of fame in the spotlight, if we had opted for positive rather than negative pursuits : the triumph of the corporate 'spirit'.

Look at what Cuba - small, poor country that it is - has accomplished in the face of our vicious CIA death, devastation, and destruction, and our unending economic and financial 'sanctions' : the triumph of the human spirit.

I hope you are right 'Things are changing rapidly now.' Better late than never. And the collapse of empire is going to require real change to weather.

Back on topic, this move by Russia shows the maturity of their leaders. They know they have no chance of effecting the world they prefer by executive fiat. They know that all they can do is help those who, like themselves, are committed to the rule of law, to compromise, to diplomacy. Very human goals. Very effective effort.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 15 2016 23:42 utc | 113

Last night b.said "And what units will actually pull out? Three military cooks departing while civilians take up their jobs."

Well, it looks like the whole lot have gone, planes especially. It also looks like Putin has done a deal with the Empire about sanctions. A commenter on ZeroH noted that Putin's body language when he gave his press conference was "weak."

Putin will be gone within a year.

Posted by: Lochearn | Mar 15 2016 23:57 utc | 114

@ jfl | Mar 15, 2016 7:42:14 PM | 113

Thanks for your insight.

Look at what Cuba - small, poor country that it is - has accomplished in the face of our vicious CIA death, devastation, and destruction, and our unending economic and financial 'sanctions' : the triumph of the human spirit.

and there is this as they excelled; so the US opened normalization perhaps because

Bringing Cuba’s Lung Cancer Vaccine to the States’s-lung-cancer-vaccine-states

Amid a historic normalizing of relations between the United States and Cuba, a potentially game-changing step was recently taken in the field of lung cancer research. [.]

Cuba’s high-quality biotech sector is thriving, led in part by the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Havana. I visited the CIM in April 2015 as part of a group that included Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s (RPCI) President and CEO Candace Johnson, PhD, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Following face-to-face meetings with CIM representatives and researchers, an agreement was finalized to bring their lung cancer vaccine,[..]

Posted by: likklemore | Mar 16 2016 0:14 utc | 115

@ 100 Putin's master class.

Why has the great grandmaster abandoned Syria? Must be a superplan which only the chessmasters can understand. Could it be to do with Biden's "Rusia has seen the Lord?"

Posted by: Lochearn | Mar 16 2016 0:21 utc | 116

LOL ...

March 15, 2016 Today's you can't make this stuff up entry is

Russia to continue air strikes after withdrawal

Posted by: ALberto | Mar 16 2016 0:26 utc | 117

aaaa - one day an opinion of yours and reality might intersect.
lochearn - grandmasters and chess. But what about Chinese and go?

Posted by: anondun | Mar 16 2016 0:33 utc | 118

Once again the range of opinions on this run from a surprise move by a master chess player to a complete capitulation, abandonment of Syria, and everything in between. I suppose only time will tell. I thought Saker had a good take, going back to the stated goals of the mission and the initial time frame given for its duration. What's key here, which I don't see any mention of, is the fact that they started a military operation and are getting out quickly, not getting bogged down like the US, so the withdrawal itself is making a statement- SUCH AN OPERATION IS POSSIBLE. Of course if the situation in Syria changes in any way which makes the Russian operation irrelevant within a few weeks or months then that statement won't mean a damn thing.

Posted by: Colinjames | Mar 16 2016 0:59 utc | 119

Oil's price is rising, could that be a deal Putin bought into?

Posted by: ben | Mar 16 2016 2:34 utc | 120

P.S.- The Empire saves some face, and Russia gets a spike in their GDP. Only a gain for Russia.

Posted by: ben | Mar 16 2016 2:37 utc | 121

@115 lm ' an agreement was finalized to bring their lung cancer vaccine '

Why did they do that? Letting the US Big Pharma in will be a disaster. Everything they touch turns ... well, to gold for the corporate them, but to dross for the rest of the world and for we human beings who inhabit it.

Maybe not this time? Gosh, I fear the worst.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 16 2016 2:52 utc | 122

Goldberg reports that “on several occasions” Kerry requested that Obama approve missile strikes at “specific regime targets,” in order to “send a message” to Assad – and his international allies – to “negotiate peace.” Kerry suggested to Obama that the U.S. wouldn’t have to acknowledge the attacks publicly, according to Goldberg, because Assad “would surely know the missiles’ return address.”

Goldberg reports that Kerry had “recently” submitted a “written outline of new steps to bring more pressure on Assad.” That is obviously a reference to what Kerry referred to in Senate testimony in February as “significant discussions” within the Obama administration on a “Plan B” to support the opposition that would be more “confrontational.” Kerry made no effort in his testimony to hide the fact that he was the chief advocate of such a policy initiative.

But Goldberg’s account makes it clear that Obama not only repeatedly rejected Kerry’s requests for the use of force, but also decreed at a National Security Council meeting in December that any request for the use of military force must come from his military advisers in an obvious rebuff to Kerry.

Posted by: Les | Mar 16 2016 3:23 utc | 123

The only possible reason for this decision on the side of Putin must be a back door deal with Washington.Putin clearly had the upper hand and contrary to what is believed the Russian operation in Syria could have keep on going for much longer.It wasn't that costly.I would be very disappointing if the only purpose of all this operation was to show off.It s rather unlikely.However I never believed that Putin acted in Syria for his love of the Syrian people.Lets not be naive.What we want for Syria is not necessarily what Putin wants for Russia.The only reason why Putin went to Syria is to protect The Russian interests.Gas is certainly a huge part of it but terrorism and an access to the Mediterranean sea should be added. To be honest I don't think that the breaking off Syria is a serious concern for him.The fact that Poutine is considering some of the foreign Islamist terrorists as legal opposition is speaking for itself.There s no good or bad in all this story but interests,this is how sadly (or goodly) The world works.

About the overall picture with Hillary probably becoming the next president of the us I believe if the US deep state doesn't change his policy that The middle east will mark the definitive downfall of the United State empire and the rise of a real Multi-polar world.The thing is that all this will probably happen with much pain for the Americans.Hillary will probably be the more hated president The US ever have. Lets hope She will be kept in check.

Posted by: lebretteurfredonnant | Mar 16 2016 8:51 utc | 124

Can a diplomatic solution succeed? I do not think the anti-Assad players want it to. Angry Panda at 92.

That is the question, yet it looks increasingly like the anti-Assad factions will have to fold. I believe the cooperation between the US and Russia is genuine and strong - of course the Americans prefer not to proclaim that.

More news. Russia has obtained from di Mistura a guarantee that other ‘groups’ will be at the table. Apparently the Russians opened up an ‘operational center’ in Syria where pro-Assad (armed or not) groups could register to participate in the negotiations. Some of them arrived in Geneva yesterday (the first day.) Putin also secured a seat for .. Egypt (pro Assad) and the Kurds. (The wording seemed to imply that the Kurds weren’t considered important by the Americans, but who knows.) The Russian ambassador said: “A maximum of groups from Syrian civil society must be present. It is up to them to decide their own future.” (no link sorry.)

We will see, and quite soon too I should think.

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 16 2016 8:58 utc | 125

Putin Shuns Syrian ‘Quagmire’
March 15, 2016
By Ray McGovern
Putin was clear in noting the Russian military presence that will remain in Syria, but was not so clear on its future use: “Our naval base in Tartus and airbase at Khmeimim will operate ‘as usual’ (? ??????? ??????). They are to be safely protected from land, sea, and air.”

This formulation presumably would allow for continued airstrikes on designated terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, including during the current “cessation of hostilities” negotiated by the U.S. and Russia. (Putin’s phrasing may also be viewed as a warning against Turkey and/or Saudi Arabia not to act on recent threats to invade Syria.)
Russia’s decision on a troop pullout having been unilateral, Putin retains the option to reinsert Russian forces should the gamble fail. It seems clear that he would prefer not to have to do that. And he is unlikely to do that, short of a rapidly growing threat from terrorists, trained and equipped for violence in Syria, returning to stir up trouble in Russia.

Putin is acutely aware of quagmires. The Soviet Union got bogged down in one in Afghanistan and, of course, he has watched what he calls “partners” get stuck there as well – not to mention Iraq, or Syria, or Libya – much less Vietnam. Last October, when President Obama and Secretary Kerry chose to warn Putin about quagmires, I can imagine the look on the Russian President’s face.

Posted by: okie farmer | Mar 16 2016 13:50 utc | 126

"Lets hope She will be kept in check."

Posted by: lebretteurfredonnant | Mar 16, 2016 4:51:18 AM | 124

She'll do exactly what she's told to do, just like all "figure heads".

Christ, she's stolen the Sanders mantra almost word for word. It'll be Obama 2.0 if she "wins".

Posted by: ben | Mar 16 2016 14:12 utc | 127

The Sanders Speech the Networks Didn't Show You

Sorry, for the OT, but, listen a bit, and you'll know why the MSM didn't carry this rant.

Posted by: ben | Mar 16 2016 14:19 utc | 128

By withdrawing, Putin takes the diplomatic high ground while at the same time reducing risks of an escalation - like downing of another Russian commercial airliner - that would harm him politically and draw Russian further into the fray.

Putin's popularity will increase and his support for re-entering the conflict if the need arises will be 'YUGE'.

Putin's move also frees USA to be more disciplined in their approach. USA "allies in the region" were baiting USA to be more directly involved - no doubt leveraging the historical Russia-USA superpower rivalry.

USA and Russia stared into the abyss and neither like what they saw. Thank goodness!

Russia won the battle of wills in Syria but the Cold War continues. Syria joins Ukraine as a 'frozen conflict' for now.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Mar 16 2016 14:22 utc | 129

jfl, claudio, thanks! If Putin trusts the US on this .. (claudio). Putin is acting *as if he does.* This is one of the aims of the ‘multipolar world’ crowd. Trust - within a certain set of rules - is an essential component, without it one might as well blow the Earth up.

Russia forced the US to ‘assume’ its position (give up being hypocritical about funding terrorists, allowing KSA to attack an ally of Iran, etc.) and to enter into a resolution of conflict mode where it’s word means something. It is quite clever: he trusts them and ‘it works out’ (even if not perfectly or not exactly to Russia’s liking, no matter), equals a big win for Russia.

What probability of that outcome? No idea, let’s say 50%. And if it doesn’t - as many seem to assume - what exactly has Russia lost? Nothing. It can return to the status quo ante / up the conflict / entirely wash its hands of the whole mess / continue decimating Daesh - al Nusra, or other options (limited of course but still…)

okie farmer at 126, that piece by Ray McGovern has it right, what I wrote is partly inspired by it.

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 16 2016 20:56 utc | 130

"Goldberg reports that “on several occasions” Kerry requested that Obama approve missile strikes at “specific regime targets,” in order to “send a message” to Assad"

I don't put much stock in this. It sounds to me more like the US Neocons trying to put a wrench in the peace negotiations. If the US murdered some Syrian government officials who would they make it look like did it?

Seems like more bullshit from a biggest American emitters of it.

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 16 2016 22:39 utc | 131

@131 g77 ' Seems like more bullshit from a biggest American emitters of it. '

Obama/Goldberg/Atlantic ... couldn't agree more. Not worth the digital tissue paper it's printed on.

@125 noirette ' Putin also secured a seat for .. Egypt (pro Assad) and the Kurds. '

And we have the news treated in the succeeding post by b. PavewayIV seems so well-informed and so dire ... CIA insider? ... But his analysis would vaporize the 'trust USA' portion of the deal, wouldn't it?

Would be gratifying to read that the Kurds were in, in Geneva?

Posted by: jfl | Mar 17 2016 1:12 utc | 132

Oil's price is rising, could that be a deal Putin bought into?

Posted by: ben | Mar 15, 2016 10:34:42 PM | 120

I noticed the same: oil reached a nadir below 30 dollars per barrel (West Texas benchmark), and after the announcement of withdrawal it briskly raised to 40. My guess-estimate is that Russia would need 50 and KSA, a bit more (Russia balanced the trade with oil at 50, actually they had a surplus, but getting budget balanced would require a significant counter-cyclical reshuffling of the tax base, KSA seems to simply live from financial reserves).

The way the market operates it could be enough that (a) there is a PERCEPTION of a deal between Russia and KSA, (b) KSA and Russia stick to the recent agreement to freeze the production and thus KSA does not actively dispel such a notion.

In reading Al Masdar News I got a mixed picture. On one hand, there seem to be a slowdown of government gains, but that this was never a totally steady progress, so nothing that unusual. The news of Russian air support, especially in Palmyra area, continue, nobody knows how much of that will continue after the "withdrawal". But there are also glimpses of genuine and perhaps decisive strategic gains.

First, the ceasefire allegedly holds in the south, where the rebels are supplied from Jordan, and more locally, in many other areas. Secondly, a piece of comment that a more major advances in Qarantain area would have to wait for the completion of Palmyra operations, because a large number of T-90 tanks are engaged there. T-90 tanks are perhaps indeed a game changer as reputed. Third, Iranians are allegedly sending more troops. Fourth, a large column departed from Latakia toward Palmyra.

Latakia is largely secure but it is defended on two fronts: north and east, and on the east, al-Ghab plain, there seems to be quiet, and that freed some troops (plus lesser danger of another invasion from Turkey).

To summarize, Russia cannot save Syria by force alone, while diplomacy without force is futile. The reality of limited war is that opposing sides have a large capacity of neutralizing efforts of the other side, but at a cost that ultimately, a limited war does not justify. The trick is to intimidate, cajole etc. the key players to de-escalate. Jordan was un-enthusiastic supporter of the rebels and totally dubious about radical Islamist that may aim at the monarchy there. Turkey is a tougher, more ideological opponent but it seems that Erdogan reaches the ropes: after demolishing of several Kurdish cities in Turkey, NATO is not particularly aghast about bombing attacks by a splinter PKK group, while the nature of those attacks will tie a lot of security forces in Turkish heartland: every passenger car is now potentially filled with Semtex. Erdogan also arrested a leader of "moderate rebels", while "non-moderate" ones confiscate weapons of the "moderate", including the "Turkoman" unit, "Sultan Murad Brigade".

An armchair strategist (me) would suggest to tie down rebels with a web of ceasefires and internal divisions while forming a force capable of crushing ISIS, a properly supplied and supported offensive by more than 10,000 troops with additional attacks on other fronts. Palmyra may be as good place to do it as any other. Once ISIS is neutralized, realistic rebels will be forced to compromise and al-Nusra can be eliminated from the battlefield (terrorist movements will last decades, but this problem will be of much lesser magnitude).

One advantage of the partial withdrawal is that if rebels massively abandon the ceasefire the Russians will return. So it will last some time.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Mar 18 2016 7:15 utc | 133

Here is an interesting graphic from Fort Russ, The cost of Moscow’s operations in Syria was modest in comparison to the military campaigns of other countries, augmented with a cost per month calculation and normalized. As far as I can see there has been no attempt to account for 'inflation' over the years, but nonetheless the differences in cost between Russia, USSR, USSA, UK are striking. As are the results.

Of course what looks like a bad result to ordinary human beings - 'Overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, sending the country into chaos', for instance - is often regarded by the ones initiating the war as success, in their war of DD&D for chaos.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 21 2016 6:11 utc | 134

Putin ist ein Meister im Schach und in der Politik. Ein teilweiser Rückzug der russischen Kräfte wird von den Kräften des islamischen Staates als Schwäche Russlands gedeutet und die Kämpfer des IS aus all ihren Löchern hervor locken. Danach wird es mit großer Sicherheit einige heftige Kämpfe geben, mit sehr großen Verlusten auf Seiten des islamischen Staates. Das wird zu Zusammenbruch des islamischen Staates in Syrien führen. Warten wir es ab.

Posted by: Willi | Mar 22 2016 18:05 utc | 135

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