Vince on Quora: What does Assad plan to do with the SDF? Is Syria going to be divided into a Western and an Eastern part?
The following is my response to a question on Quora. I want to remind readers that the most in-depth analyses by far of the Syrian war are being published at Russian-language sites and the best way to access these is to read www.newsilkstrategies.com. We are still not well equipped for mass mailing and rely on electronic “word of mouth” to drive traffic to our site. We therefore ask that you bookmark this site and visit at least twice a week. For those interested in Russian vs US military prowess and weaponry, we recommend regularly visiting our Military Affairs section.
We need to focus on Russia, not Assad. In order to see Syria’s future, we need to look at current trends and behaviour patterns of the Russians in Syria. Almost since the beginning of Iranian involvement there, for example, the Israelis were firing missiles into Syria, destroying defence infrastructure and killing men engaged in fighting terrorists, many of these targets being Iranians. The Iranians were the excuse that Israel used, but since they never fired back, it was obvious that these Israeli attacks were not defensive, they amounted to an attack on the sovereign state of Syria—completely illegal. These Iranians became martyrs. But creating martyrs is very dangerous for the US. They just don’t realize it. Russia exploits this martyrdom by creating propaganda memes. When Israel sent attack aircraft to Syria that hid behind the Il-20, which was then accidentally shot down as a result, that was perceived as an indirect attack on Russia. But Russia had always said that anyone attacking Russia will be dealt with. And they kept their word, sending in the S-300 system to the Syrian army ostensibly for the purpose of defending against the Israeli attacks, although the real reason was to set air defences to protect against US attacks, which were expected based on the false-flag chemical attacks that the US warned would happen and that this would trigger another – third – Tomahawk attack. The Israelis initially scoffed and said they would destroy on the ground the S-300 systems that can destroy enemy planes attacking Syria. (BTW, the defence minister who drafted this response, Avigdor Liberman, is now the ex-defence minister. Netanyahu knows that you don’t mess with Russia).
But the Russians made it clear that Russian personnel would be installing and manning the system until the Syrians could learn to use it. (I suspect they will actually always keep Russian personnel in charge of these systems). It bears noting that the S-300 is not the main issue here. This system is only part of a multi-layered defence system that includes the S-400 system long deployed at the Hmeimim base at Latakia and, most importantly, the highly effective electronic warfare (EW) systems that have no equivalent in the West (Russia is the undisputed master in both air defences and EW) and can jam all electronics on board enemy aircraft. Now how do we know these EW systems work? We know not because of what the Russians have claimed but because of the complaints of US general Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Forces, who let it slip at a high level meeting that the EW systems installed in Syria were making it almost impossible for the AC-130 gunships used for recon in Syria to do their job (BTW, these gunships were part of the attack force that killed Russian mercenaries at Deir Ezzor). He said the area where these planes were deployed was the “most aggressive EW environment on the planet.” He did not mention the Russians but that was unmistakably implied. So then when Russian defence minister stated, after the S-300s were sent to Syria, that the new multi-layered air defences would “suppress satellite navigation, on-board radar systems and communications of warplanes attacking targets on Syrian territory from the west,” no one seriously doubted him. Initially, the Israelis had been counting on the US claim that the F-35s sold to the Israelis would be invisible to radar. However, the latest Russian air defence systems can locate and target these planes (one method used is a laser system). A recent statement by a Russian expert confirms this. An exclusive translation of this can be found at the site newsilkstrategies[dot]com.
So let us once more review this long-term behaviour pattern of Russian strategists:
1—Tolerate the aggressive behaviour of a powerful enemy until a red line is crossed.
2—Then when the red line is crossed, deploy air defences and EW that are known by the enemy to work well and warn what will happen if Russian personnel and/or assets are harmed.
You have to realize that it is only a matter of time until the US crosses the line in Syria and the Russians already have a plan for when that happens. At present, there are no Russian air defence and EW systems deployed near the illegal US bases at Deir Ezzor and Al-Tanf. When the US killed a group of Russian mercenaries near Deir Ezzor, that did not cross a red line because these men were not officially part of the Russian armed forces answerable to the Ministry of Defence.
So Russia watchers know what is coming.
As for the area north of Manbij, although the US has bases there, the ultimate outcome of the conflict depends on the Turks. However, the US is already backing a Kurdish group, the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) that contains militias of the YPG, which Turkey considers terrorists. In the long run, Turkey will therefore not allow the US to control territory under SDF control. And behind the scenes, Russia will be involved in the Turkish strategy for this region. Putin will push for an agreement that keeps Syria intact.
Idlib, where terrorists still hold hostages and reportedly kill some (as reported in this video), will almost certainly be the next stage in the Russian advance. The Russian-Turkish de-escalation zone there is already being violated, and when this becomes too obvious, Russia will no doubt use this as justification for a full-scale attack on the terrorists in the area. Turkey will not be able to object. Russia can say “we did all we could.”
But the Russians are wise enough never to allow the Americans to lose face. After all, the ultimate US goal in Syria is not to seize and control territory. It is to please the GOP constituents who firmly believe in MAGA. As long as Trump can continue to take credit for “defeating terror,” even if the Russians and Assad were the ones who did the work, then both the American side and the Russian/Syrian side will be happy and Syria will remain essentially intact.