Russian President Vladimir Putin is well on the way to securing what had been western Syria for whatever dependent Putin might choose. He has been supporting Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s Alewite forces with fighter-bombers and the Iranian and various Shia militias he recruited and supplied. In the coming months, Putin is likely to consummate his position as arbiter of the Levant—defining the borders of its Kurdistan, Sunni-stan, and Shia-stan, as well as the roles of counties in the region, while excluding Americans.
He is doing this by adhering to elements of political-military success that his American rivals forgot or never learned, incidentally offering us something of a refresher course in these matters.
The simplicity of Russia’s strategy and coherence of the political and military measures Russia is using to pursue it contrast with the diffuse and outright self-contradictory nature of U.S. policy and political-military operations. That contrast will become increasingly clear during the next six months or so.
Putin’s success stems from his focus on Russia’s own interest in securing an expanded influence in the Mediterranean crossroad between Europe and the Middle East. Since the Muslim world’s war between Sunni and Shia now rages in the Levant, and since Russia’s Tartus naval base is located in the Alewite (a branch of Shia) part of former Syria, securing Russia’s interest had to begin with making sure that the Shia side will hold this area undisturbed. But securing it, from the Golan Heights up to the Turkish border between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates, also requires accommodating Israel’s interests in the south and obtaining cooperation with the Kurds in the north.
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