Russian military in Syria: ‘Diametrically different approach’

© Maxim Shemetov
The key difference between the Russian and Western campaigns in Syria is that Moscow has been asked for help by Damascus officially, unlike the US who “neither waited for the Syrian government to ask for help, nor had a mandate from the UN,” experts say.

‘Washington gives tacit support’

US’ “tacit support” for the Russian operation is a major change to its previous stance, and the reason is that “the Western bombing of Islamic State has been a complete failure,” says John Laughland, Director of Studies, Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris.

“We know that Washington and Moscow are cooperating and that Washington is giving tacit support. It’s precisely the result of the meeting that occurred in the UN building between presidents Putin and Obama. Moscow would inform Washington about its airstrikes in order to prevent any kind of accidents, any kind of conflict breaking out,” he said.  

Russian anti-terror op in Syria

The Russian Air Force has launched airstrikes against targets of Islamic State militants in Syria. The move was approved at by Upper House of the Russian parliament after a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad. LIVE UPDATES:

Posted by RT Play on Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The difference between the Western deployment of troops and the Russian is that Moscow’s decision is being “conducted in cooperation with the Syrian army.” 

“The Russian approach is diametrically the opposite of the Western approach,” Laughland said.

“I don’t believe in a political solution any more in Syria. I think the priority precisely has to be given to a military solution. And the politics can come later,” he added. “It is time now to clear this threat and to deal with it militarily. And I really don’t see other option to that.”

‘US has been soft-handed on IS’

Syrian political activist Ammar Waqqaf said that Russia’s move did not come as a surprise to Washington, but “they are pretty much embarrassed” because of two things.

“A: This Russian move is ultimately going to expose that they have been very much soft-handed on the IS terrorist organization, that they haven’t been really interested in defeating them, but probably containing them and steering them towards defeating the Syrian government. B: the most important thing now is that whilst the Russian initiative comes within international law - they’ve waited for the host country to ask for help, the American initiative neither waited for the Syrian government to ask for help, nor had a mandate from the UN,” he said.

‘Powerful air force behind Syrian army will make big difference’

“The Russians are ticking all the legal boxes and they are building up a coalition,” said Alexander Mercouris, International Affairs Editor for Russia Insider.

In his view, the use of Russian air power will have “a very considerable impact.”

“There is the one major problem that we have seen – the Syrian air force is very small and outdated, it doesn’t have good targeting equipment. The Russian air force is of an entirely different order of effectiveness. And the problem with the US airstrikes is that they are not coordinated with ground forces - the Syrian army is there, it is fighting on the ground, it now has a powerful air force behind it. I am sure this is going to have a big difference,” he said.

‘Russia has to clear up mess caused by West & its regional allies’

Europe is sending mixed signals, with a changing rhetoric towards Assad on the one hand and a criminal investigation on the other. It symbolizes “absolute chaos in regard to the West’s policy on Syria,” says Middle East analyst Marcus Papadopoulos.

“For the west the brutal realization is now that its objective to overthrow the Syrian government through the use of various Islamist groups has failed, and as a result of that failure it has caused absolute chaos and carnage in Syria. The West: the Americans, the British and the French, publically will be saying that there needs of some sort of coordinated action, possibly with Russia, possibly with Iran, to target ISIS, but on the other hand, they don’t want to lose face. So they have got to keep to what they have been arguing since 2011 – that President Assad is this ‘tyrant’, is this ‘genocidal maniac’- all this sort of Hollywood terminology... Their policy has been an abject failure. And Russia now has to step in and now has to clear up the mess that the West and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have caused in Syria,” Papadopoulos said.

‘It’s logical Russia stepped in, security at stake’

It has become that “the so-called international coalition against ISIS has been unsuccessful in its efforts,” said Middle East expert Ali Rizk.

On the contrary, he went on, since the beginning of the operation, Islamic State has expanded.

I think that basically it left no choice for Russian President Vladimir Putin, but to step up and assume this role particularly because ... we have a large increase in Russian fighters who have joined ISIS. The latest number is around 1,700 Russian fighters who were fighting with ISIS and have returned to Russia. We also have a large number of Turkmens, from the Caucasus region, Uzbekistan. We even have now a significant presence of ISIS in Afghanistan, which is also not that far away from Russia. So if indeed Russia continued to just stand and watch that would lead to an encirclement of Russia itself by these extremist groups. Therefore, it is logical and it is also urgent for Russia to go ahead and act and take up this responsibility, because its own national security is at stake from these groups,” Rizk told RT.


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