by Daniel Carter
Since 2011, Syria has been the scene of one of the most intense conflicts on earth. A rebel force backed by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia tore through the country in an attempt to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria. This created a destabilized environment that eventually attracted ISIS. Wanting to help their ally in the region, Putin ordered Russian military forces to enter Syria to help them defeat their numerous enemies. With ISIS nearly destroyed, Putin announced that Russian forces would be leaving Syria.
This comes as a massive surprise as Syria’s future is still largely up in the air. ISIS is gone, but the Kurds, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia remain and are still actively trying to overthrow the Syrian government.
Back in July, I wrote an article in which I said the US was deliberately cutting Syria in two halves, and was on a collision course with Russia. Well, one of my predictions came true. Below is an image of how I thought the Syrian map would look.
Here’s how the Syrian map looks today:
I was close in my estimation considering this is how the map looked when I wrote the article:
My prediction about the US and Russia going head-to-head has (very fortunately) not become a reality. However, I believe there is a very good reason that Russia is currently withdrawing troops. First, Vladimir Putin is running for reelection in 2018. He most likely wants to give voters the impression that he intends to be fiscally responsible. Russians are very aware of how the failed militarism of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan led to the Soviet Union’s bankruptcy. They are also fully aware of how the US has trapped themselves in endless war in the Middle East, and they don’t want to see the same for their country.
There could be a much more strategic reason Russia is withdrawing its military from Syria however. They have accomplished their stated goals by removing ISIS from the region and saving Assad’s government. That makes them a force acting in goodwill of the people of Syria and the region as a whole. On the other hand, the US continues to invade lands where they are explicitly not wanted. They fund radical Islamists, overthrow leaders and create power vacuums that lead to catastrophe. Russia wants to be perceived as the opposite; a force for good instead of evil.
If Russia can convince the world they are on the defensive instead of the aggressor, other nations are likely to have more sympathy for them if they do end up going to war with the US. They have already gotten sympathy from Germany and others regarding the US sanctions imposed on them.
Even though Russia is removing a lot of its forces from Syria, it looks like they don’t intend to leave completely. After all, there are significant economic advantages to be had in Syria from the natural gas trade. We should not be so naïve to think the US and Russia are there solely to defeat ISIS.
If Russia can continue to play the role of the “nice guy”, it will go a long way in helping them achieve their economic goals. Judging from the past actions of the United States military industrial complex, the US will very likely be the first aggressor. After slowly and steadily building the perception of level-headed diplomacy, Russia’s attacks will be justified in the minds of many nations. This could also cause the US to lose allies and Russia to gain allies. The actions Russia is taking now could ultimately help them win the war. It remains to be seen, but I don’t think either Russia or the US is anywhere near done with Syria. Russia’s recent announcement of withdraw seems to be merely tactical.
by Daniel Carter