By ARIE EGOZI
Tel Aviv. In order to achieve its goal of full control on Syria, Russia is operating one division of the Syrian army as part of the Russian army. This unprecedented move emphasises, according to Israeli experts, the Russian plan to gain full control of Syria.
Recently, soldiers from division number 5 of the Syrian army were sent to eastern Syria to Deir al-Zor province in an attempt to reduce Iran’s dominance as much as possible, and Lebanese Hezbollah units were also forced to hand over their barriers and positions and transfer security responsibilities to them.
Units of Syrian division number 5 are being trained by the Russians in training camps in northwestern Syria.
During training, the fighters are sent to the various combat fronts and sometimes even accompanied by Russian military advisers who train them to operate.
The Russians have decided to put an end to the Iranian presence in Syria that is mostly connected with Tehran’s support for the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Russia continues its effort to turn Syria as front base for its defence forces. Israeli sources say that the US is “totally unaware” of the obvious results of this massive effort that according to them will affect the US ability to operate in the region.
Military sources told Zaman al-Wasl, the news website of the Syrian opposition, that Russia has taken full control of Palmyra Military airbase in the Syrian desert from regime forces, making it the fifth Russian military base in Syria.
To make all these happen Russia is performing a massive “shaming” campaign against the Syrian president.
“They want to control Syria totally with a puppet government,” an Israeli intelligence sources said.
The takeover continues full force. In early June, a Russian military delegation was received at the airport from a Regime delegation headed by the commander of the 22nd Air Force Brigade Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Muhammad Khaddour.
The airport has been evacuated from all Iranian presence and from all regime related military and logistical forces, sources told the website.
Russia started to reconstruct the airport with engineering and drilling equipment so as to remake it into a base capable of receiving Russian military and civilian planes including troops. The base will be similar to the Hmeimim base, and will be independent from any regime presence.
According to the sources, it is still unclear whether the Russian military control is a long-term or a short-term agreement with the Regime.
The rehabilitation engineering operations carried out at the airport, however, indicate that the Russian military stay won’t be short-lived. The source indicated that a large number of shields had already been brought to the airport and deployed to the ground in a way that is suitable for the Russian military and civilian presence.
President Vladimir Putin ordered his Defense and Foreign Ministries to hold talks with Bashar Assad’s regime over obtaining maritime access in Syria, as well as further military facilities and additional real estate on land and sea.
During the engineering preparation operations, the Russian forces have found ancient historical monuments and have kept hold of them in the presence of the Regime delegation which did not seek to prevent it. The Russian engineering forces had carried out excavation operations before looking for monuments in Palmyra in 2017 and 2018 and had looted many of them deporting them to Russia, the source said.
An Israeli source said that the Russian ambassador to Syria was recently nominated as a “special adviser of President Putin in Assad’s palace in Damascus.”
Russia is forcing Syria to accept its demands for a massive military presence. Russia expected that after its massive intervention in the Syrian civil war, President Assad will accept all their demands unconditionally.
Moscow is using all its arsenal in its efforts to be the main “contractor” that will rebuild ruined Syria, after the long civil war. This is to gain huge contracts that will help their badly harmed economy.
The message from Moscow is very clear – you have to fully obey, otherwise you will have to leave the presidency palace.
Israeli experts say that Putin has sent a clear message to Assad – “accept all our demands or you will be thrown out of your palace.” He made it clear that Putin demanded that Russian companies will get all the concessions they want.
While Assad is still conducting a power game with Moscow, it is very clear that Russia intends to stay in Syria and make the country its front military base in the area. In recent weeks, Moscow acted in this direction and last week the Russians announced that they are building a marine repair shop in the Syrian Tartus port.
The facility is called a “ship repair center” but it is obvious that its foremost task will be to serve the Russian navy ships that will operate in the Mediterranean. The center is scheduled to begin work at the end of the month. The Tartus port is leased to Russia under a 49 years contract and the center has been set up in the port areas serving to the Russian navy.
Bri General (ret.) Amos Yadlin is a former general in the Israeli Air Force, Israel Defense Forces military attaché to Washington, D.C. and was head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate. He now heads the Israeli institute for national security studies (INSS). Yadlin said that the Russians had some very clear missions in Syria – to save Syrian president Assad, to defeat ISIS, to test some of their most advanced weapon systems and to show the world that they are loyal to their allies.
“They have achieved all these goals and now they use these achievements to make Syria their base in the Mediterranean. The US has its sixth fleet in these waters and now the Russians that see themselves as a world power are working step by step to bring their navy to the region. It will be a substitute to their presence in the port of Alexandria in Egypt that has ended in the 70s.
The Russians are doing everything to prove that Assad is not the right person to rebuild Syria. They point to the fact that while more and more civilians in Syria are plunging into poverty, Assad anonymously purchased a painting with no less than US$30 million: a gift to his wife Esma who recovered from the treatments she underwent after suffering from breast cancer.
The painting “The Big Splash” depicts a splash of water from a swimming pool in a California courtyard, the painting of English artist David Hockney, was put up for auction at Sotheby’s auction house and bought by a man who did not identify himself by name, but thought to be someone who acted for the Syrian President.
Other publications describe Assad as a weak man, unable to deal with corruption and have completely lost the confidence of the business community in his country. The results of a public opinion poll conducted by the Russian Institute show that only 32 per cent of Syrian citizens will vote for Assad next year.
Israeli experts point to the fact that Russian commentators have begun to speculate about Assad’s replacement Ahmad Jarba, formerly opposition leader, described as a “good candidate for compromise” between Putin and Trump. A well-known Russian diplomat has come close to retirement, criticising Assad’s stubbornness that thwarts any political order.
The Israeli experts say that Putin decided to crush Assad so that he can easily control Syria as a big Russian military base.
The writer is an Israel-based freelance journalist. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily carry the views of Raksha Anirveda