12 April 2018   Leave a comment

The Russian publication, Kommersant, has run an article on the Russian preparations for a US attack on Syrian and the Russian interpretation of US intentions in the region.  At the end of the article, there is a fascinating paragraph which provides some insight into the way the US and Russia are addressing the issue of the use of chemical weapons:

“At the same time, according to Kommersant’s information, the Russian side expects to receive from the Pentagon the coordinates of the targets, on which the United States is going to strike (as it was on April 7, 2017 before the shelling of the Syrian air base Shayrat). This is necessary to exclude even the theoretical possibility of losses from the Russian side, since MO officers are present on dozens of Syrian infrastructure facilities.”

In other words, Russia and the US are coordinating the possible strikes in Syria so as to avoid Russian military casualties and thereby prevent a great power confrontation in Syria.  Syrian President Assad could hardly be reassured by the duplicity of its major supporter.  And it is not clear whether the other players in the possible attack–Israel and Iran–are involved in this ploy.  It also may be the case that the US does not intend to inflict great damage, if any, on Syria.  US President Trump tweeted this morning:  “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our ‘Thank you America?’”

 

The Turkish journal, Suriye Gündemi (Syrian Agenda) has published a very good map of the configuration of forces in Syria as of 11 April 2018.

Turkish Flag:   US Flag: Flag of the United States of America  Syrian Flag: Flag of Syria.svg  Russian Flag:  Flag of Russia.svg  French Flag:  Flag of France.svg

The Turkish think tank, the Omran Institute for Strategic Studies, has also published a very good map of the military bases in Syria.

If military action occurs in Syria, one can use these maps to determine the objectives of the attacks.  In particular, one should look to see if US and allied forces are deliberately avoiding Russian targets in an attack to prevent an escalation of the conflict.  If it is clear that such restraint is being exercised, then the Russians will likely not seek to raise the stakes.  But there will be a point where the Russians may have to worry about attacks that threaten to topple the Assad regime.  These lines are very fine and the possibility of inadvertent attacks may upset these specific intentions.

Great Britain and France have indicated that they are willing to participate in a military action against Syria, but today Germany indicated that it will not under present circumstances.   Italy made a similar declaration.  Both, however, have indicated that they support NATO although it is unlikely that NATO will take united action in Syria.

 

 

 

Posted April 12, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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