Russia Begins Withdrawal from Syria?

A small group of SU35s, Russia's most advanced war plane were deployed to Syria only weeks ago.
A small group of SU35s, Russia’s most advanced war plane were deployed to Syria only weeks ago.
Khmeimim airbase (also written Hmeymim‬) on Google Earth.
A South Frnt still shows the areas of control in Syria as of March 14th, 2016.
A South Frnt still shows the areas of control in Syria and south western Iraq as of March 14th, 2016.

March 16th, 2016.

Russia Announces Withdrawal of its Military from Syria.

On the eve of UN brokered peace talks, the Russian Government has made the shock announcement that they will  withdraw the “main part of their military grouping in the Syrian Arab Republic” beginning immediately.

The statement from the Kremlin does not say how many of the Russian Aircraft and troops will be withdrawn from Syria nor how long it would take but it has already started.

FIRST VIDEO: Russian warplanes leaving airbase in Syria

This is a very strange turn of events when it is considered that Russia was sending more warplanes to Syria less than a fortnight ago. South Front reported in early March that Russia had just sent several extra aircraft to the Syrian base and provided an updated inventory of the Russian Airforce in Syria.

South Front's updated inventory of Russian warplanes in Syria from early March, 2016. This indicates that the decision to begin to withdraw was taken in the past several weeks.
South Front’s updated inventory of Russian warplanes in Syria from early March, 2016. This indicates that the decision to begin to withdraw was taken in the past several weeks.

What Forces does Russia have in Syria?

The Russian Air force has stationed almost 100 aircraft in Syria, the estimates for the number of Russian troops in Syria range between 5 and 20,000. Whatever the number, Russian forces have not played a significant role in ground battles.

Officially, the Russian military have suffered three deaths during the Syrian operation, two on November 24th last year when Turkey shot down the Russian SU24 aircraft and another soldier died in the rescue effort and a soldier who died earlier this year as the result of a reported ISIS mortar attack.

There were also credible reports that a car bomb attack in Latakia claimed by Ahrar al Sham had killed at least ten Russian soldiers in late February.

Syrian rebels claim car bomb attack that killed Russian soldiers in Latakia – ARA News

The story disappeared but there were people on both sides telling neutral sources it happened.

Motives.

The Russian decision comes as a shock as they are a vital element of the loyalist coalition that is midway through several major operations.

The motives for this decision will become clear over time but it seems that Russia has decided to put its will towards ending the war in Syria.

It is possible that Russia is attempting to send a message to their Syrian Government allies that they must be flexible in their negotiations with the opposition.

In recent days the Syrian Foreign Minister stated that the status of the Syrian President Bashar al Assad was not up for negotiation. It is possible that Russia would like to see Assad and coterie head into exile as a way to end the war.

Future of Bashar al-Assad remains ‘red line’ as Syria peace talks begin

Russia has tended to be at least one step ahead of Western observers in recent years so only when we see what happens next will Russia’s intent become recognisable.

There are three obvious possibilities.

  1. This is a ruse designed to bolster the Geneva talks and Russia’s international image.
  2. The US and Russia have made a secret deal regarding Syria’s future that will end the war.
  3. Russia wants Bashar al Assad to leave Syria and is trying to make Assad understand that he must yield to the demands of the opposition and leave power.

My understanding is that Russia is perfectly happy to see Assad leave as they understand that the demand for his departure is merely an excuse for the destruction of Syria via a continuation of the war, their priority has clearly been the survival of the Syrian state and the Syrian army, under whatever leadership. If the war could be ended by his departure, in an orderly way it is highly likely that Russia would request that Assad leave Syria.

This is a provisional map of the ceasefire areas. The orange areas are government controlled. The green areas are under juhadist control and the ceasefire areas are in blue.
This is a provisional map of the ceasefire areas. The orange areas are government controlled. The green areas are under juhadist control and the ceasefire areas are in blue. The cessation proved more significant than the small blue sections of the map would indicate.

Brief Summary of the Military Situation in Syria.

International Military Review – Syria–Iraq, Mar. 14, 2016

International Military Review – Syria, Mar. 16, 2016

A Cessation of Hostilities?

Around one hundred small insurgent groupings chose to participate in the partial ceasefire. The cessation did not apply and was never intended to apply towards either ISIS nor the local al Qaeda franchise the al Nusra front. Another large grouping Ahrar al Sham chose not to participate in the cessation due to the fact that the al Nusra front, their close ally, were excluded.

Ahrar al Sham says no cessation of hostilities while Nusra is being attacked : syriancivilwar

Therefore the only insurgent groups of any significance to participate was the Jaish al Islam, largely based in the outer Damascus area and the Southern Front coalition of insurgents fighting in the far less active southern parts of Syria.

On paper it seemed then that the cessation of hostilities would make little difference but the fighting has been sharply reduced in the fortnight since implementation and Russia has been helping to negotiate a series of local amnesties and ceasefires, building on a tactic the Syrian Government has been using for several years and that has seen insurgents allowed to leave many areas including Homs city.

Since the cessation began anti Government demonstrations have resumed in the rebel held areas but they are neither large nor enthusiastic. On the weekend an attempt to hold a pro-democracy rally in Idlib backfired badly when the “democratic’ protesters were attacked by Islamists advocating the implementation of Sharia law. The overwhelming desire of the majority of the people appears to be for the war to end and be able to resume their lives.

The sooner it is over the better, but the problem of al Nusra, ISIS and their sponsors is not suddenly going away, even if the Americans decide to call it a day, there are strong indications that neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia would follow the advice or direction of the US.

Looking from the Latakia mountains down into al Nusra held Idlib province. The town of Jisr ash Shigour is the white patch in the upper left, at a distance of around 7 kilometres.
Looking from the Latakia mountains down into al Nusra held Idlib province. The town of Jisr ash Shigour is the white patch in the upper left, at a distance of around 7 kilometres.
Syrian Amry rockets impact on a Latakia mountain viewed from a surveillance drone.
Syrian Amry rockets impact on a Latakia mountain viewed from a surveillance drone.

Major Current Government Operations.

The Latakia offensive is almost complete and the assault is poised to move onto Idlib province in the coming days and weeks.

Drone footage of Syrian Army MRLs against militants in Kabbani – Latakia

Syria‬ ‪‎Latakia‬ : ‎SAA‬ ‪‎NDF‬ military operations in Vicinity of ‪‎Kabani‬

A large operation is also underway against ISIS in the area around Palmyra in central Syria.

Syrian Army prepares to storm Palmyra | March 10th 2016

Rain of BM-30 Smerch, TOS-1A and BM-27 by SAA on ISIS in Palmyra

Fighting continues in the Hama and Homs countryside and in southern Aleppo.

Battles for Syria | March 12th 2016

Battles for Syria | March 13th 2016 | North Hama Plain

The Der az Zour pocket showing the SAA positions.
The Der ez Zour pocket showing the SAA positions.

Besieged Der ez Zour and Conclusion.

Thousands of Syrian troops and hundreds of thousands of civilians remain encircled by ISIS in the eastern city of Der az Zour and although ISIS are on the path to total collapse in both Syria and Iraq, without Russian air support it is hard to see the Syrian Army liberating Palmyra and defeating ISIS and al Nusra in Syria.

The attempt to end the war is admirable but this will not solve the problem of al Nusra and ISIS each of which retains significant territories within Syria.

It must be assumed that Russian air strikes will continue in Syria for many months at the very least with a scaled down presence conducting a smaller campaign.  Anything less would be a betrayal of all they have achieved up to this point.

International Millitary Review & Analysis – Withdrawal of Russian Military from Syria


First group of aircraft has left ‪‎Hmeymim‬ airbase for permanent location airfields in Russia

Israel Firsters Demand World War against Russia.

Still from video of Russian ari strike on Syria.
Still from video of Russian ari strike on Syria.

October 2nd, 2015.

Israel Firster US Senators Advocate War with Russia.

If you want to know what Israel’s opinion is on any situation, just listen to the words of  John McCain, Lindsay Graham or Tom Cotton and Israel’s wishes and thoughts become clear very, very quickly.

Lindsay Graham was predictably.the most amusing of the troupe coming up with some real gems here.

MUST-SEE Crazed US Senator Attacks Defense Secretary for not Planning War With Russia!

Which provoked this response from zarfii on youtube .

“The question is Graham, you fucking warmongering psychopath POS, Are you and your family going to be on the front lines with your butchering maniac Jihardist buddies to depose a democratically elected leader and risk WW3 “

Which seems an apt summary.

US Senator Tom Cotton will become President after armageddon and looks forward to the opportunity.Such a low disgusting liar that he still claims that

US Senator Tom Cotton will become President after Armageddon and looks forward to the opportunity.Such a low disgusting liar that he still claims that “Iraq would have posed a security threat to the US if the US had not invaded Iraq.

This is only a general rule it must be hoped because over the past several days McCain and Cotton have been calling for the US to attack Russia in Syria. A course of action with potentially apocalyptic consequences for the people they are supposed to be representing and the wider world.

You haven't made it big as a leader of Jihad until you meet with the American Emir-Senator John McCain greets Belhaj following the ouster of Gaddafi.
You haven’t made it big as a leader of Jihad until you meet with the American Emir-Senator John McCain greets Belhaj following the ouster of Gaddafi.

It can only be hoped that these ridiculous suggestions represent the last moans of the dying monster

US presidential candidate Marco Rubio wants to impose a no-fly zone in Syria

Senator John McCain: Arm Syrian Rebels With (SAM) to Shoot Down Russian Planes.

Sen. Tom Cotton says US should shoot down Russian planes over Syria

Fiorina calls for US to create a no fly zone in Syria, shoot down Russian planes

Pentagon mulling use of force to protect US-trained militants from Russian attack

Syria: Russian Su-34s destroy ISIS command centre near Raqqah

Syria: Russian air strikes hit ammo depot in mountainous region

International Military Review – Syria, Oct 3, 2015

Syria: RuAF Su-25 Airstrike on IED Factory in Idlib

Syria: Russian Sukhoi jets lift off to combat Islamic State

Combat Cam: Russian jets target ISIS command center, training camp – Moscow MoD

Syria: Footage shows Russian airstrikes obliterating IS targets

Russian Airstrikes All Over Syria Continue